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A. D. Page 

His Descent ... - 1 

1265. His Birth - - . - 2 

His Mother's Dream - - - 3 

Brunette Latini - - - -4 

Story of his early Love for Beatrice - - fl 

1290. Her Death - - - -7 
" Vita Nuova " ... 7 
Uncertain Traditions concerning the early Part of Dante's Life 9 

His Marriage with Madonna Gemma - 10 

The Guelfs and Ghibelincs - 13 

1289. The Battle of Campaldino - - 14 

Dante serves in the Cavalry - - 14 
Extract from his Inferno, Canto XXII., giving an Account, of 

this Conflict . . - 15 

He again takes the Field at the Siege of Caprona - - 15 

Extract from the Inferno, Canto XXI. - 15 

He is chosen chief Prior of his native City - 16 

Origin of the Schism between the Bianchi and the Neri - 17 

The Cerchi and the Donati - - 18 
Banishment of the principal Instigators of the Neri and the 

Bianchi . . .19 

Dante suspected of favouring the Bianchi Party - - 20 

He vindicates himself . .20 

Entrance of Charles into Florence - - - 20 

TheRecaloftheNeri - - 20 

Six Hundred of the Bianchi driven into Exile - 21 

Embassy of Dante to Rome . - 21 



A. D. Page 
Boccaccio accuses him of Self-confidence and Disparagement of 

others _ 21 

Confiscation of Dante's Property - -22 

His Banishment - - - - 22 

He joins the Confederates of the Bianchi at Arezzo . 23 

Their unfortunate Expedition against Florence . -23 

Pietro Petracco . - - 23 

Dante quits the Confederacy . 23 

His personal Humiliation . - - 24 

Extract from his " Purgatorio " - 24 

1508. Henry of Luxembourg raised to the Throne of Germany - 26 

Dante professes himself a Ghibeline - 26 

1313. Henry of Luxembourg poisoned . 26 

Dante dedicates his " De Monarchia " -26 

He wanders from one petty Court to another - 27 

Buspne da Gubbio affords him shelter at Arezzo - - 27 

Anecdote of him while at Verona - - 28 

Guido Novello da Polenta, Lord of Ravenna . 29 

Mental Sufferings of Dante - SO 
His Letter to a Friend who had obtained Leave for him to 

return to his Country - - 31 

Extracts from his " Paradiso " - . -32 

His Residence at Ravenna - .32 

1321. His Death . .33 
A Copy of his " Divina Commedia " embellished by Michael 

Angelo - - .34 

Dante his Tomb at Ravenna - . -35 

Restoration of his Property to his Family - 35 
The " De Monarchia " publicly burnt at Rome, by Order of the 

Pope - 35 

Description of Dante by Boccaccio - 36 

Musical Talents of Dante - - - 37 

Extract from his " Purgatorio " - 37 

His two Sons the first Commentators - -39 

Lyrics of Dante - - 41 

Origin of the " Divina Commedia " - - 43 

Observations on the Title of the " Divina Commedia " - 44 

Extracts from the " Inferno " - 46 

Strictures on it . - - 51 

And on the " Inferno " - 53 


1302. His Progenitors - - 61 

Their Banishment from Florence - 61 

1305. Petrarch and his Mother return from Banishment - 62 

1312. They remove to Pisa - - $2 

They proceed to Avignon - 62 

1315. They quit this for Carpentras, where Petrarch becomes ac. 

quainted with Settimo - 63 


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1319. He enters the University of Montpelier - . 63 

His Father destines him for the Law . .63 

His Aversion to it - - 64 

1323. He goes to Bologna - -64 
His Recal to France, on the Death of his Father ; he aban- 
dons the Law - . .64 
He resides with his Brother at Avignon ; he becomes a Fa- 

vourite with the Nobles - . 65 

His Person . . -65 

His Friendship for John of Florence . 65 

Giacomo Colonna ; his illustrious Descent - 66 

His Friendship for Petrarch - - 67 

Character of Petrarch . -68 

1327. (April 6th.) His Acquaintance with Laura - - 68 

His Devotion to her - - 70 

His poetic Life commences - 71 

His Patriotism - - -72 

1330. Giacomo Colonna made Bishop of Lombes; Petrarch accom- 

panies him to his Bishoprick . -72 

His Friendship for Lello and Louis - - - 72 

1331. He makes the Tour of France, Flanders, and Brabant - 73 
He meets with a Disappointment at Lyons . - 75 
His Arrival at Rome - - - 76 
(August 6th.) He returns to Avignon . .75 
His Excursion to Mont VentouX - - - 76 
His Letter to Father Dionisio Robertis - - 77 
His Retirement to tlie Valley of Vaucluse . .78 
A Description of it . .78 
Version of one of Petrarch's Canzoni, by Lady Dacre - 80 
Criticisms on Petrarch's Italian Poetry , & 
Philip de Cabassoles, Bishop of Cavaillon, becomes the Intimate 

of Petrarch - - 83 

Letter of Petrarch to Giacomo Colonna - -84 

1340. Petrarch receives Letters from Rome and Paris, inviting him 

to accept the Crown of Poetry ; he accepts the former - 85 

1341. His Reception at the Court of King Robert of Naples - 86 
(April 17th.) His Coronation . , ' - 86 
He leaves Rome and arrives at Parma - 87 
He meet* Azzo Correggio - - 87 
Death of Giacomo Colonna - - - 87 
Early Death of Thomas of Messina - 87 
Petrarch's Grief for the Loss of these Friends . -88 
He and Rienzi sent on an Embassy t6 Rome, on the Accession 

of Pope Clement VI. . 89 

He meets Laura at Avignon - 8S 

His Confidants - - 90 

'1343. Death of Robert, King of Naples - . .91 

He is succeeded by his Daughter Giovanna - 9i 

Mission of Petrarch to Queen Giovanna - QQ 

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1345. Nicola di Rienzi seizes upon the Government of Rome, and 

assumes the Name of Tribune - - 92 

Change produced by him in the State of the Country - 92 

Petrarch offered a Bishoprick, which he refuses - 93 

1347. He leaves Avignon, and repairs to Parma - - 94 
Downfal of Rienzi - . -94 

1348. The Plague in Italy - 94 
(January 25th.) An Earthquake . 94 
(April 6th.) Death of Laura . . -94 
Petrarch's Account of it . 94 

1350. Revisits Rome on Occasion of the Jubilee . - 98 
Assassination of Giacomo da Carrara, Lord of Padua - 98 

1351. Restitution of Petrarch's paternal Property . 99 
Arrival of Petrarch at Avignon . - 100 
His Letter to Pope Clement VI. on the Choice of a Physician . IOC 
He revisits Vaucluse . . - IOC 

1352. Death of Pope Clement VI. - 100 
Petrarch visits the Carthusian Convent - 101 
His Treatise " On Solitary Life " - 101 

1353. He crosses the Alps, and visits Milan - 101 

1354. Is invited by Charles, Emperor of Germany, to visit Mantua - 102 
He exhorts Charles to deliver Italy - - - 102 

1355. Petrarch at Milan - - 103 
He is sent on two Missions one to Venice, the other to Prague 103 

1360. Invasion of France by the English . 103 
Petrarch sent to congratulate King John on his Return from 

Imprisonment - 103 

He returns to Italy - - 104 

His Letter to Settimo - 104 

1361. Italy again visited by the Plague - 105 
Death of Petrarch's Son -105 
Marriage of Francesco, Daughter of Petrarch - 106 
The Poetry of Dante and Petrarch compared - 106 
" The Triumph of Death " - 107 
Petrarch's Description of Laura's Death - 107 

1S63. Boccaccio, his Attachment for Petrarch - 110 

Leonzio Pilato's Death - 110 

1367. Petrarch's Letter to Pope Urban V - 110 

His Reply 

1369. Petrarch suffers from Fever 
1372. (January.) His Letter to, a Friend who had asked him, " how 

he was - H2 
1374. His Opinion of the Decameron of Boccaccio 

His Death 

His Will 


Origin of his Family .... 

1313. His Birth . - -116 


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1329. He enters on the Study of the Canonical Law - 117 

1333. His Dislike for this Study - - - 117 

He goes to Naples - - - 117 

1338. He visits the Tomb of Virgil - - 118 

A Description of it - 118 

Boccaccio his Admiration of it - - 119 

1341. Another Circumstance occurs which confirms his Predilection 

for Literature - - 120 

Commencement of his Attachment for Lady Mary - - 121 

Some Account of her - 121 

Her Person - - 122 

His first Book, " Filocopo " - 123 

The Story of it - - 123 

His Style - - 124 

1342. His Recal to Florence on the Death of his Father - 125 
His " Ameto " - - 126 

1344. He returns to Naples - - - 126 

Death of King Robert - 126 

Queen Jane and her Court - - 126 

" Filostrato," of Boccaccio - - 126 

His " Amorosa Fiammetta " and " Amorosa Visione " - 127 

1348. He writes " The Decameron " - 127 

The Preface - - - - 127 

Description of the Plague in Florence - 128 

Critique on the " Decameron " - 130 

1497. Burning of the " Decameron " - 130 

1527. The " Ventisettana " and ' Delphin" edition of the " De. 

cameron " published - - 130 

1350. Return of Boccaccio to Florence - - 131 
His various Embassies ... 131 

1351. He visits Petrarch at Padua - - 132 
He is sent to Bohemia to Louis of Bavaria - - 133 

1354. Again sent on a Mission to Avignon . - 133 

His violent Party Feelings - 133 

His Letter to Petrarch - - 133 

Petrarch's Answer - - 13* 
Boccaccio his enthusiastic Love for the Study of the Ancients 135 

His celebrated Copy of Dante - - 136 

He visits Petrarch at Milan - 137 

Moral Change in him - - 137 

1361. A singular Circumstance occurs which achieves this moral Work 139 

He communicates this Circumstance to Petrarch . - 140 

Petrarch's Letter in Answer - 140 

1363. Power and Influence of Acciajuolo, Seneschal of Naples - 142 

He invites Boccaccio to his Palace - - 142 

His unworthy Treatment of Boccaccio . 143 

He removes from his Palace in consequence - 143 

He returns to Florence . - 143 

His Residence at Certaldo ,. . .144 

a 3 


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His Work, " De Casibus Virorum et Faerainarum Illustrium " - 145 

1355. His Embassy to Pope Urban V. - - 145 

He projects a Visit to Venice . -145 

His Letter to Petrarch, whom he missed seeing \ - 145 

1370. His Visit to Niccolo di Montefalcone, Abbot of the Carthusian 

Monastery of San Stefano, in Calabria - 147 

1372. He visits Naples - - 147 

1373. He returns to his Retreat at Certaldo - 147 
His Work on " The Genealogy of the Gods " 147 
The Professorship for the Public Explanation of the " Divina 

Commedie " conferred on him - - 148 

1374. Petrarch's Death - . -149 
Grief of Boccaccio . 149 

1375. (December 21st.) Death of Boccaccio - 149 


Ficino, Pico Delia Mirandola, Politian, the Pulci, &c. - 151 

1438. Platonic Doctrines in Italy - 151 

Gemisthus Pletho . . 151 

The Medicean Library founded by Cosmo - - 152 

1464. His Death - . . -152 

Lorenzo de' Medici succeeds to his Father's Wealth and Influence 152 

1478. The Pazzi Conspiracy - 152 

1479. Pope Sixtus VI. leagues all Italy against Florence - - 152 

1480. Lorenzo de' Medici his Firmness and Talents - -152 
He induces the King of Naples to conclude a Treaty with 

Florence - - 153 

A Yearly Anniversary of Plato's Death instituted - 153 

Lorenzo de' Medici his Commentary on his first Sonnet - 155 

Extract of a Translation of one of his Sonnets - - 156 

His " Nencia da Barbarino " - 157 

And another, " Canzoni Carnaleschi " - 157 

His descriptive Poems - - 158 

1492. His Death - - 159 


1433. His Birth - - 159 

He is adopted by Lorenzo de' Medici - 160 

His " Platonic Institutions " - 160 

His " Treatise on the Origin of the World " - 160 

1468. He assumes the Clerical Profession - - 160 

1475. He obtains the Cure of two Churches and Cathedral of Florence 160 

1499. (October 1st.) His Death - 161 


14G3. His Birth - . - 161 

His Parentage - -161 


A. D. Page 

He visits Rome - - 161 

His 900 Propositions published - 162 

1494. His Persecution and Death - - .162 


1454. (July 24th.) His Birth - - 162 
In Florence, he attracts the Attention of Lorenzo de' Medici - 163 
He engages him as Tutor to his Children . 164 
He obtains the Professorship of Greek and Latin in the Univer- 
sity of Florence - - 165 

1492. His Letter to Jacopo Antiquario - 165 

Disasters which befell the Medici - - - 166 

Politian's Monody on Lorenzo . . 166 

1494. (September 24th.) Politian. His Death . -167 


His Origin - . - -167 

His Work* . . -167 


His Works . . - .16? 


Author of the " Morgante Maggiore " - -168 

Critique on " Morgante Maggiore " - 168 

The Family of the Heroes of Romance - - 169 

Extract from the " Morgante Maggiore " - 171 

The Subject of the Poem - - -172 

1509. Author of " Mambriano " - 179 

1448. His Death 


Matteo Maria Bojardo ; his Ancestors [". . 181 

1434. His Birth . . 181 

His Parents - - - - 181 

His Education . . 181 

1469. He is sent out as one of the Noblemen to welcome Frederic III. 

to Ferrara - - - 181 

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1471. Borso, Marquess of Ferrara, created Duke 

Bojardo accompanies him to Rome on his Investiture - 181 

1472. Marriage of Bojardo to Taddea -182 

1473. Bojardo selected by the Duke of Ercole to escort his Wife to 

Ferrara - - - - - 182 

1478. He is made Governor of Reggio 

1494. His Death 

His Lyrical Poetry - 182 

His Classical Works - 182 

An Extract from his " Orlando Innamorato" - - 183 


Francesco Berni - - 188 

His Birth - - 188 

His early Life - - 188 

The Vignaiuoli established at Rome by Oberto Strozzi - 188 

1526. Rome plundered by the Colonna - 188 

1536. (July 26th.) Death of Berni - - 189 

Publication of his "Rifacimen to" - - -189 

Alterations made by Berni in " Orlando Innamorato " - 192 
His introductory Stanzas which he appended to each Canto - 193 

His Person and Disposition . . 193 

An Extract us a Specimen of his Humour - 194 

Bernese Poetry - 195 


1474. (September 8th.) Ludovico Ariosto, his Birth . - 196 

His Lineage - - .196 

His early Studies - - 197 

.Latin the universal Language of Writers - - 198 

The Transmutation and Transfusion of the dead Languages 

into modern Tongues - 199 

Death of Ariosto's Father . - 199 

His pecuniary Difficulties in consequence - 199 

His filial and paternal Affection - - .200 

His Brothers Gabriele and Galasso - . 200 

His Sisters ... 200 

A Quotation from his second Satire, alluding to his Mother - 201 
His Bagatelles . . . - - 202 

He composes his " Orlando Furioso " . . 203 

His Answer to Cardinal Bembo, who advises him to write it in 

Latin ... .204 

The Duke of Ferrara threatened with the Thunders of the 

Vatican ... ... 204 

Ariosto sent as Ambassador to Rome on this Occasion - - 205 

Julius II. enters into a League with the Venetians - - 205 

The Papal Forces defeated at Ravenna - - -205 


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The Capture and Dispersion of the Republican Squadron on the 

River Po - - - 205 

Ariosto, his gallant Conduct on this Occasion - - 205 

His second Embassy to Rome - ... 206 

His uncourteous Reception by the Pontiff ... 5206 
Emperor Alfonso, his fruitless Negotiations with the implacable 

Julius - - 207 

And the perfidious Treatment he receives - - 207 

The singular Manner in which he retaliates ... 207 

1515. The first Edition of the ' Orlando Furioso" - - - 208 

Succeeding Reprints and Variations of it - - - 08 

1532. The last Edition . - 208 

Ariosto refuses to accompany Cardinal Hippolito to his Bishopric 208 
Their consequent Estrangement .... 209 
A Story of Hippolito, his natural Brother, and a Lady to whom 
they both paid their Addresses ; the infamous and unnatural 
Conduct of the Cardinal - - - , - -209 

Independence of Ariosto _ - - 210 

Ease, Freedom, and Independence necessary to the Life of a 

Poet - - 210 

Letter of Ariosto to his Brother Alessandro - - 212 

Ariosto enters the Service of Duke Alfonso ... 217 
Discomforts and Mortifications of his precarious Circumstances 218 
His Reasons for not taking Orders - - 219 

Pope Leo X. issues a Bull in favour of the " Orlando Furioso " 219 
"What Claims had Ariosto on the Bounty of Leo X. ? - - 220 

Extracts from his Satires 221 

The Dignity and Ease he enjoys at the Court of Alfonso - 226 

His Government of Graffagnana . . 226 

His Rencontre with some of his uncouth Neighbours - - 227 
Baretti, his Version of this Anecdote - . - 228 

Extract from his Satires - - . .229 

He is invited to accept a third Embassy to Rome . - 230 

His Answer to Bonaventura Pistolfo - 230 

His Release from his Government - . .232 

He perfects his " Orlando j " his Dramatic Works . - 232 

A curious Anecdote of him when a Child ... 232 
Remarks on his Writings . . 234 

1532. Ariosto, his last Illness - . - . - 234 

Apocryphal Traditions of him - - . . 235 

His Person - . . . 235 

His Character - - - .236 

His Sons - . . . .037 

His Elegies, Sonnets, and Madrigals . . .5437 

A Translation of one of his Sonnets - . . 238 

Difficulty of translating his Works ... 239 
English Versions of his " Orlando Furioso" - . 239 

His Recitation - 340 

Anecdote of him - .240 


A. D. Page 

His whimsical Peculiarities; his Habits - - -241 

His Reveries - - - - . -242 

His last Hours - > . - ' - . -243 

His Monument - - -244 

Sketch of the Outline of the " Orlando Furioso " - - 245 

Critical Remarks on it - . : . - - 247 

A Sequel and Imitation of it - . . . 250 


850. Origin of his Family . - . _ 256 

1469. (February 3d.) His Birth ' J '" . . -257 

His Parentage - . . -257 

Nothing known of his Childhood and Education - - 257 

PaulJovius - ,~-" s/a - "'*' -257 

1494. Machiavelli Secretary under Marcellus Virgil - - 257 

1497. Florence agitated by the Prophet Salvanorola . - -258 
Marcellus Virgil elected High Chancellor - - 258 

1498. Machiavelli made Chancellor of the Second Court - - 258 
Is Secretary of the Council of Ten - - .259 
His Missions to various Sovereigns and States ... 259 

1492. Italy convulsed by foreign Annies and domestic Quarrels - 259 
Ludovico Sforza invites Charles VIII. of France into Italy, in- 
stigating him to assert his Right to the Neapolitan Crown - 260 

1493. Entrance of the French into Italy j causes great Commotion in 

Florence ; the Overthrow and Exile of the Medicean Family 260 

Italy overrun by Charles - ... 260 

The Italian System of Warfare - - - - 260 

1498. Death of Charles VIII. - -261 

Louis XII. succeeds him ; his speedy Conquest of Milan - 261 

1501. Pisa, under the Rule of Florence, repines at its Servitude ; they 

implore Chatles to restore their Independence - - 261 

1500. Pisa besieged by the Florentines - - - - 262 

Machiavelli and Francesco della Caza employed by the Republic 

as Envoys to the French Court ; curious Style of their In. 

structions - - 262 

They fail in their Object, and return to Italy - - 263 

Machiavelli, his Mission to Crcsar Borgia - . - 263 

Roderigo Borgia chosen Pope ; he assumes the Name of Alex- 
ander VI. - - - 264 
His Character - - 264 
Cesar Borgia raised to the Rank of Cardinal j his Dislike to the 

Church - . . . - 264 

His Jealousy of his Brother, the Duke of Candia, whom he 

causes to be waylaid and murdered ... 264 
He abdicates the Cardinal's Hat, and obtains the Duchy of 

Valence in France ... - 265 

He determines to form the Principality in Italy - - 265 

His Encroachments supported by an Alliance with Louis XII. 265 
His Attack on Bologna . - - - 266 


A. D. Page 

Revolt of his chief Condottieri - -266 

Conspiracy of Magione - 267 

1502. Arrival of Machiavelli at Imola - - - 268 
His Interview with Caesar Borgia - - 268 
His Opinion of him - ... -268 
Caesar Borgia, his Method of defending himself - - 269 
His Policy - - 269 
Paolo Orsino, his Arrival at Imola - - 269 
Machiavelli, his Letter to the Signoria of Florence - - 269 
His Conversation with Caesar Borgia - - 270 
His Admiration of Borgia's Talents - - 271 
Machiavelli solicits to be recalled - - - 271 
Treaty between Caesar Borgia and the Confederates - - 271 
Letter of Machiarelli on this Subject - - 272 
Borgia leaves Imola - - 273 
Machiavelli follows the Court to Cesena - - - 275 
His Letter - - - - - 273 
He again writes from Cesena - - 274 
The Confederates sent to Sinigaglia - - - 275 
Arrival of Borgia at Sinigaglia - - 275 
He causes the Orsini and Vitellozzo to be taken Prisoners - 275 
Machiavelli, his Account of this Transaction - - 275 
His Letter - - 275 
Treacherous and cruel Revenge of Borgia on the Confederates 276 
(January 8th.) Machiavelli, his Letter to the Republic - - 277 

1503. His Recal to Florence - - 278 
His Description of the Method used by the Valentian Duke in 

putting to death Vitellozzo Vitelli - - 278 

The " Decenal " - - - 278 

An Anecdote of Ca?sar Borgia - - 279 
Narrow Escape of Caesar Borgia at Rome, it is supposed from 

Poison - - .280 
(August 28th.) Sudden Death of his Father, Pope Alexander - 281 

Accession of Pope Pius III. - - -281 

Fall of the Fortunes of Caesar Borgia - - 281 
Machiavelli's Embassy to Rome to influence the Consultations 

concerning the future Destination of Caesar Borgia - - 281 
Julius II. - 281 
Borgia sent to Romagna in the Name of the Holy See - .282 
Cardinal Volterra sent after him with a Requisition ; Borgia re- 
fuses to comply ; he is arrested in consequence, and sent on 
board a French Galley - - - 283 
He is brought back to the Vatican ; he is liberated - .283 
He goes to Naples - - 283 
He forms new Schemes, is again arrested, and confined in the 

Fortress of Medina del Campo - ... 284 

1506. His Escape and Death - - 284 

1304. Machiavelli leaves Rome, and goes to France - - 284 

Peace between France and Spain - -284 


A. D. Page 

1506. Formation of a native Militia in Florence - - -285 
Pope Julius II., his Projects - - 285 
The Florentines delegate Machiavelli to the Court Militant at 

Rome j his Letters - - 285 

1507. Francesco Vettori treats with the Emperor Maximilian at 

Trent - - 286 

1508. Machiavelli sent with -the Ultimatum of the Florentines to 

Trent - - 286 

On his Return, writes his " Account of Germany " ^ - 286 

1509. Pisa besieged by the Florentines - - - 86 
Machiavelli sent to assist them . - - - 286 
Enmity between Louis XII. and the Pope - 287 

1510. Machiavelli, his Mission to Louis ; his Letters - - 287 
His Audience with the King at-Blois - - -288 

1511. Pietro Soderini elected Doge of Florence - - -288 
Louis determines to dethrone him; Florence offers him Pisa 

for it - - . - - 288 

Terrified by the Menaces of the Pope, they send Machiavelli to 

recal this Offer - - - - 288 

Disastrous War, the Consequence - - - 289 

1512. Diet of Mantua - - - - - 289 
Overthrow of the existing Government of Florence - -289 
Restoration of the Medici - - .289 
Machiavelli deprived of his Place - 291 
Conspiracy against the Medici - 291 
Machiavelli supposed, to be implicated ; is thrown into Prison 

in consequence ...... ggj 

He is included in an Amnesty of the new Pope, Leo X. - 291 

1513. His Letter to Francesco Vettori ; his Liberation - . 291 
Letter of Vettori to Machiavelli - - - - 292 
His Letter in Reply - - - . - - 292 
Vettori, his Endeavours in behalf of Machiavety - - 293 
Machiavelli, his Letter to Vittori - - .294 
Analysis of his Worfc called the "Prince "... 297 
Machiavelian Policy - . - - - 300 
His Essays on the first " Decade of Livy " - - - 304 
His " Art of War " - - - - 304 
His " Belfegor " . - - - ...304 
His Comedies - - - 304 

1514. His Letter to Vettori 305 

1519. Address of Pope Leo X. to Machiavelli j his Advice . 306 

Machiavelli, his Reply . - . - .306 

Hjg " Essay on the Reform of the Government of Florence " - 306 
1521. Machiavelli Ambassador to the Minor Friars at Carpi - 306 

Letter of Francesco Guicciardini on his Appointment ; Machia- 
velli, his Reply - . _ 307 
1524. Cardinal Julius commissions him to write the History of 

Florence . - . ... 307 

1526. Cardinal Julius becomes Pope Clement VII. ; he makes Ma- 
chiavelli his Historiographer . - . .308 


A. D. Page 

Deplorable State of Italy - - 308 

Constable Bourbon at Milan - . - - 308 

Machiavelli sent by the Pope to inspect the Fortifications at 

Florence - - 309 

1527. Arrival of Bourbon at Bologna - - - - 309 

A Truce concluded between Clement VII. and Charles V. - 310 
(6th of May.) Sack of Rome - - - 310 

Machiavelli assists the Italians in relieving the Pope, who is 

besieged in the Castcl Sant' Angelo - - . 310 

He returns to Florence ... 310 

His Death - - . - - . - 311 

His Wife and Children - - - - 311 

His Person and Character -----_ 311 

1782. Complete Edition of his Works published - - - 312 

His Descendants - - ... .312 







A. D. Page 

156*. (15th of February.) His Birth - -1 

His Ancestors ' - - - - - - - S 

His early Years - 3 

1581. A Scholar of Arts at the University of Pisa - - - 3 

Studies Medicine under Andrew Caesalpinus - 3 

His Work on the Hydrostatical Balance - - - 4 
Guido Ubaldi engages him to investigate the Centre of Gravity 

of solid Bodies - ... 4 

Appointed Lecturer of Mathematics at the University of Pisa * 

1600. Giordano Bruno burnt - - - - 4 
Galileo attacks by Argument and Experiment the Aristotelian 

Laws of Gravity - - 5 

Opposition of the Aristotelians to his Discoveries - 6 
A Method of clearing out the Harbour of Leghorn proposed 

by Don Giovanni de' Medici - - 6 

Galileo opposes this Opinion ; is persecuted in consequence - 6 

1592. He obtains the Professorship of Mathematics at the University 

of Padua - - 6 

1593. Account of his Conversion to the Copernican System . 7 
He meets with an Accident - - 9 
He completes his first Engagement at Padua . .9 

1598. Is re-elected other six Years - .... 9 

Accusation brought against him with respect to Marina Gamba 10 

1604. A new Star excites the Attention of Galileo . .10 

1606. Again re-elected to the Professorship of Padua - .10 

His increasing Popularity - - .10 


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His Examination of tne Properties of the Loadstone - - 10 

1500. Doctor Gilbert's Work, the " De Magnete," published - 1 1 

1603. His Death .... . 31 

Cosmo proposes to Galileo to return to Pisa - - - 1 1 

The Arrangements suggested by Galileo, and the Manner of 

urging them - 12 
Dutch Telescopes --.....13 

Galileo constructs his first Telescope - - 13 

Interest which the Telescope excited in Venice - 14 

The Art of cleaning and polishing Lenses very imperfect - 15 

Results of the Observations of Galileo on the Moon - - 16 

His Examination of the fixed Stars . - 16 

1610. The Satellites of Jupiter discovered by Galileo - - - 18 
Galileo's Work, the " Sidereal Messenger," published - 18 
Reception which these Discoveries met with from Kepler - 19 
Horky ; his Work against the Discoveries of Galileo - - 20 
Simon Mayer - ... . 1 
Discovery of new Satellites - ... - 21 
First Enigma of Galileo published . - - . - 28 
His Observations on Saturn and Venus - . - 23 

1611. His Reception at Rome ; he erects his Telescope in the Quirinal 

Garden - ... 24 

(March.) He discovers the Solar Spots - - - - 24 

1610. Thomas Harriot discovers the Solar Spots (in December) - 25 
Professor Scheiiier ; his Letters on the Subject of the Solar 

Spots - 26 

These Letters answered by Galileo - - - - 26 

Facula; or Luculi discovered on the Sun's Disc, by Galileo - 26 

His Observations on Saturn - - . - 27 

The Subject of floating Bridges discussed - - - 28 

Galileo " On Floating Bodies " - - 28 

1613. His Letter to the Abbe CasteUi - - 31 

Caccini attacks Galileo from the Pulpit . - 31 

Luigi Maraffi apologises to Galileo for this Conduct - - 31 

Galileo, his Letter to the Grand Duchess Christian - - 31 

1615. (26th of February.) Galileo appears before the Inquisition - 31 
He renounces his Opinions * 33 
The Copernican System condemned by the Inquisition - 34 

1616. Interview of Galileo with Pope Paul V. - - - - 34 
Letter of Querenghi to the Cardinal D'Este - - - 84 
Negotiations of Galileo with Spain - . - - 35 

1618. Three Comets appear - - - - 36 

1619. Discourse on Comets by Marco Guiducci - - - 36 
" The Astronomical #nd Philosophical Balance " 

1623. Galileo, his Work "II Saggiatore" - . - - 37 
Accession of Cardinal Barberini to the papal Throne - .37 

1624. Galileo, his Visit to Pope Urban VIII. - - - - 38 
His Reception - - - - - - 38 

1629. Death of Cosmo - - . - 39 


A, D. Page 

Pecuniary Difficulties of Galileo - - - - 39 

1630. "Work of Galileo demonstrating the Copernican System - 41 

1632. " The System of the World of Galileo Galilei" - -42 
Influence of this Work on the public Mind - - - 43 
Galileo summoned to appear before the Inquisition - -44 

1633. (14th of February.) He arrives at Rome - - 45 
Is visited by Cardinal Barberini ; his Kindness to him - 4ri 
Trial of Galileo - - - - 47 
(22d of June.) His Sentence ... -48 
His Abjuration - - - - - 49 
What Excuse is there for his Humiliation and Abjuration ? - 50 
Imprisonment of Galileo - - - -52 
He leaves Rome - . . . . - - 52 
He returns to Arcetri - - - - 52 
Death of his Daughter .. . - - - -53 
His Indisposition and Melancholy - - -53 

1638. He obtains Permission of the Pope to return to Florence - 53 

Continued Kindness of the Grand Duke of Tuscany for him - 54 

His " Dialogues on Local Motion " .54 

Discovery of the Moon's Libration - - 55 

1637. Blindness of Galileo - .... 56 

He is visited by a Number of Strangers . - - 58 

1642. (8th of January.) His Death 58 

His Epitaph and Monument - . . . . <j5 

His House - - 60 

His domestic Character - - - . , - 60 

His Person - . . . . .60 

His scientific Character - - - 61 


1482. (6th of March.) His Birth . . . 63 

His Parentage - . . - 63 

His Education - - - . . .64 

He obtains the Degree of Doctor of Laws . - 64 
His Marriage - ... 64 
Sent as Ambassador, by the Republic, to Ferdinand King of 

Aragon . . .65 

He returns home - - . - - 65 

Leo X. visits Florence - - . - 65 

Guicciardini sent to receive him at Cortona - - 65 

He makes him Governor of Reggio and Modena . -'66 

Death of Leo - - - . 66 

Guicciardini, his memorable Defence of Parma . .66 

Made President of Romagna - - _ - 67 

His Administration - - . - - 67 

Made Lieutenant-general of the Pontifical Army - - 67 

The Power of the Medici becomes odious in Florence . 67 

Dangers to which Clement VII, IB e*i*oced . .67 



A. D. Page 

The Palace of Government seized by the younger Nobility - 67 

Frederigoda Bozzole sentto treat for it - - 68 

Guicciardini, his Zeal in the Cause of the Medici - - 69 

Reconciliation between Charles V. and Pope Clement VII. - 69 

Their united Arms turned against Florence - - - 69 

Second Restoration of the Medici - - 70 

Overthrow of the Liberties of Florence - - 70 

The Office of Gonfaloniere established - - - 70 

Alessandro de' Medici named Duke - - - 70 

His disgraceful Birth - . . -70 

His Vices - . . . .71 

Guicciardini resigns the Government of Romagna - - 71 

Murder of the Duke Alexander by Lorenaino de' Medici - 72 

Cosmo raised to the supreme Power - - - 72 

Guicciardini retires to his Country Seat at Montici - - 72 

1540. (27th of May.) His Death - - . 74 


Women who aspired to literary Fame in Italy r. -76 

1465. Cassandra Fidele born ; Politian's Letter to her - - 76 

1490. Vittoria Colonna, her Parentage - - - 77 

Her Marriage with the Marquess of Pescara 77 

Pescara made General of the Army at Ravenna - 77 

His Testimony of Affection to his Wife . - 77 

Her Answer - - -"-78 

Death of Pescara - - - - 78 

Vittoria Colonna, her Grief in consequence - -79 

Her Poetry - - - - 80 

Her Friendship for Cardinal Pole and Michael Angelo - 81 

1547. Her Death - - - - - 81 


1537. His Birth - . - - - 82 

Little known of his early Life - - 82 

His Marriage - - - - - - 82 

1565. His Embassy to Venice to congratulate the new Doge, Pietro 

Loredano - - 83 

1571. His Embassy to Rome to pay Homage to Gregory XIII. - 83 

1573. His Mission to Poland to congratulate Henry of Valois on his 

Accession - - - - - 83 
On his Return made Chancellor and Secretary of State 

His second Visit to Poland - - 83 

1575. (25th of November). His Letter to his Wife during his Journey 83 

His " Pastor Fido " - . - - - 87 

His Quarrel with Tasso - - 87 

1582. He requests his Dismissal from the Duke ; he retires to his 

Villa - .... - 88 


A. D. Page 

1585. His " Pastor Fido " acted at Turin - - - 91 

1586. Guarini returns to his Post at Court ; is made Secretary of State 92 
His Missions to Umbria and Milan - - - 92 
His Quarrel with his Son - - - SJ2 

1590. He leaves the Court of Alfonso and goes to that of Savoy - 93 
'He leaves Savoy, and goes to Padua . . - 93 

1591. He loses his Wife - . . . . 93 
His Letter to Cardinal Gonzaga - - - .93 
His Visit to Urbino - - - - - 94 
He retires to Ferrara, deputed by the Citizens to congratulate 

Paul Usur - - - - - .95 

1608. Nuptials of Gonzaga and Marguerite of Savoy - -95 

1612. (7th of October.) His Death - - - 95 


Their Ancestors - - 98 

1493. Bernardo Tasso appointed Secretary of State to FerranteSanse- 

verino, Prince of Salerno - - 99 

His Marriage with Portia Rossi - - - 100 

1544. (llth of March.) Torquato Tasso, his Birth - - -101 

Bernardo Tasso joins his Patron in the War - - - 102 

Infancy of Torquato - 103 

Return of Bernardo from the War - - - - 103 

1552. The Prince of Salerno and his Adherents declared Rebels - 104 

Bernardo, his Exile - - - - - 104 

Torquato Tasso, his Separation from his Mother; Lines written 

by him on this Occasion ^ ... 105 

He and Cowper compared - - - 107 

1556. Death of his Mother - - 108 

Torquato Tasso at Rome with his Father - - 108 

Is implicated in his reputed Treason - - 109 

His Letter to Vittoria Colon na on the Marriage of his Sister 

Cornelia - - - 110 

Letter of Bernardo to his Daughter ... HO 
Bernardo flies to Ravenna - - - -111 

He is invited to Pesaro - - - - 111 

Vicissitudes of Bernardo Tasso - - -112 

Torquato Tasso, bis Studies - - - 114 

Boileau - - - - - 115 

" Joan of Arc " . . - - 117 

" Curiosities of Literature " . 118 

Torquato translates his Father's Poems and Letters . - 118 
" Amadigi " - - 119 

Torquato Tasso studies Jurisprudence at Padua - . 122 

His " Rinaldo " - - - 122 

Epic Poetry - . 125 

" Gerusalemme Liberata " - 126 

Torquato leaves the Study of the Law, and repairs to Bologna 127 
He returns to Padua and establishes the Degli Eterei - .128 



A, D. Page 

His " Discourses on Heroic Poetry " . - 130 

1564. He visits his Father at Mantua - . - 130 
His Illness - - - - - 131 

1569. Bernardo Tasso, his Death - . . - 131 

Torquato Tasso appointed one of the personal Attendants of 

Cardinal D'Este - - - - 131 

Zoilus - - - - 131 

1565. Torquato Tasso at Ferrara, in the Service of Cardinal Luigi - 132 
Marriage of Alfonso Duke of Ferrara . - -132 
Death of Pope Pius IV. - - 133 
Torquato becomes acquainted with Lucretia and Leonora of 

Este - - - - - - 133 

A quotation from his " Aminta " 134 

1568. Marriage of the Princess Anna of Este with the Duke of 

Guise - - - - - 136 

Marriage of Lucretia D'Este with the Prince of Urbino . 136 

Torquato Tasso accompanies the Cardinal Luigi, as Legate, to 

the Court of France - - 138 

Two or three Anecdotes related of him - -139 

1572. Arrival of Tasso at Rome - - - - HO 

His Reception by Pope Pius V. - - 140 

Admitted into the Service of the Duke Alfonso . - 140 

His "Aminta" - - - .141 

His " Torindo " and " Torrismondo " - - 143 

His Illness ... .144 

His Escape to Rome, with the Duke Alfonso's Consent - 146 
He returns to Ferrara - - ... 146 

An Incident occurs to him which establishes him a Hero - 147 

His Malady - - 148 

Is confined as a Lunatic by the Duke Alfonso - - 148 

Efforts of the Duke to calm his Mind - - - H'J 

His Love for the Princess Leonora - - -149 

He visits his Sister - - 150 

1579. Committed as a Lunatic to St Anne's Hospital - - 152 

His Letter to Scipio Gonzaga - . 152 

1581. Death of the Princess Leonora - - - 156 

Its Effect on Tasso * - - - - 156 

1586. Liberation of Tasso . . -157 

His Controversy with the Delia Cruscan Academy - - 158 

His last Work, " Sette Giornate " - - .158 

He recovers his Mother's Dowry - - 158 

The Pope grants him a Pension - . 158 

Manso, his Account of his Interview with Tasso during the 

Time he supposed he was visited by a Spirit - - 159 

1594. (25th of April.) Death of Tasso - - - -161 

His Works - - - . - 161 



A. D. Page 

1552. His Birth - - - - 153 

His Parentage J63 

His Childhood - . . 163 

Enters the Service of Cardinal Comaro Camerlingo . - 164 

His disastrous Residence at Rome - - . 163 

His Studies - - - - - 164 

His Style - - 165 

His Elegiac Poems - - 166 

A Quotation from Wordsworth's Translation - . 166 
Generous Overtures of Charles Emanuel ... 167 

He refuses ... . 168 

1637. His Death - - - . . 168 


1565. His Birth . . . . . 169 

His early Life . - - - -169 

1585. Obtains the Degree of Doctor of Laws at the University of 

Bologna - - -169 

1:S7. Visits Rome ; enters the Service of Cardinal Colonna ; sent by 
him to obtain Permission of Pope Clement VIII. to accept 
the Viceroyalty of Aragon ; his Success - - - 170 

1622. His Works - - . . - 171 
1635. His Death . - - - - 173 


1569. (18th of October.) His Birth - - 174 

He opposes his Father's Wishes to become a Lawyer; he 
turns him out in consequence .... 174 

1589. Publishes his " Canzoni de' Baci "- - - 174 

Concerned in some youthful Scrapes - * 175 

Accompanies Cardinal Aldobrandini to Turin - - 175 

His literary Quarrels 175 

Marini publishes his Poem on the Murder of the Innocents - 176 
He accepts the Invitation of Marguerite of France - - 176 

Her Death before his Arrival - - . -176 

Is received by Mary de' Medici - - 176 

1623. He publishes his " Adone " - - 177 
He returns to Rome ... - 178 

1625. (25th of March.) His Death - - . 179 


1642. (30th of December.) His Birth 180 

His Parentage - . - . 180 

His Education .... . 180 

His Marriage - - - - - 181 

His Odes . . . -.181 


A. D. Page 

Kindness and Liberality of Christina of Sweden to Filicaja - 182 

He is appointed Governor of Volterra - - 182 

His Return to Florence; his Character} his "Ode to the 

Virgin " - - - - - - 183 

1717. His Death - - - - - - 184 


His obscure Origin - - - 185 

169a (13th of January.) His Birth ; his Name - - - 185 

His Adoption by Vincenzo Gravina - - - 185 

His first Tragedy, " Giustino " - - 186 

His Letter to Algarotti - - - - 187 

His Letter to Don Saverio Mattel - - - 188 

Death of his adopted Father Gravina - - 189 

His Studies . - - ' - - 189 

His Imprudence - - 189 

Commences the Study of the Law at Naples - - 190 

He composes his " Orti Esperidi " - - 190 

He quits his Legal Studies . - 191 
And resides at the House of the Prima Donna Marianna 

Bulgarelli - - - - - - - 191 

He studies Music - - 192 

1594. Operatic Dramas first introduced at Florence - - - 192 

1724. Metastasio composes his " Didone Abbandonato ; " also his 

" Siroe " - - - - - - 192 

He accompanies the Prima Donna to Rome - - -193 

1727. He writes his Drama of " Cato " - 193 

1729. He is invited to become the Court Poet of Vienna - 193 
Apostolo Zeno - - 194 

1730. Metastasio fulfils his Engagement to the Roman Theatre -194 
He enters on his Employments at Vienna; Success of his Dramas 191 
Becomes Treasurer of the Province of Cosenza, in Naples - 195 
His Letters to Marianna Bulgarelli - - 196 

1733. Her Death - - ... 193 

Metastasio's Letters to his Brother on her Death - - 198 

His Style - - . - - - 200 

His " Attilio Regulo " - . 201 

" Themistocles " and " Olimpiade : " his Dramas - - 202 

His Canzonetti - - 203 

1740. Death of the Emperor Charles VI. - 203 

1745. Francis I. elected Emperor - - - 204 

Several European Sovereigns invite Metastasio to their Court . 204 

His Malady .... - 204 

His Letters ... - - 205 

His Letter to his Brother on the Death of his Father - - 205 

1770. Death of his Brother Leopold - -208 

1737. Farinelli - . - - - - 208 

174(5. Death of Philip V. of Spain . - 209 

17C3. Accession of Charles II L - - - 209 


A. D. Page 

Physical Sufferings of Metastasio - - 09 

Death of the Empress Maria Theresa ... 209 

1772. Doctor Burney's Account of Mctastasio - - - 210 

1782. (12th of April.) Death of Metastasio - - - - 211 


1707. His Birth - - - - - -213 

His Origin - . . 213 

1712. Death of his Grandfather ; Pecuniary Difficulties of his Family - 214 
Education of Goldoni - - 215 

His Departure with his Family from Perugia - - 216 

Carlo Goldoni studies at Rimini - ... 216 

His Parents embark for Chiozza - - - - 216 

Description of Chiozza ... . 216 

Goldoni escapes from Rimini - 217 

He arrives at Chiozza - .... 218 

He studies the Law under his Uncle, at Venice - - 219 

1723. His Success at the University of Pavia - - 220 

His Expulsion, and the Cause of it - - - 221 

Returns to his Parents - .... 221 

He pursues his Legal Studies at Modena - - - 222 

He determines to become a Monk - - - 223 

Prudent Conduct of his Parents on this Occasion - - 223 

Goldoni becomes Coadjutor to the Chancellor of Feltri - - 224 
He falls in Love - . . - -224 

17S1. He joins his Father at Ravenna - - - 225 

Death of the elder Goldoni - - . - 225 

Goldoni enters the Profession of Barrister, at Venice - - 225 
An Incident occurs which destroys his Prospects - - 226 

His Tragedy of " Amalassunta " - - - 228 

Its Fate - . - - - - .229 

Buonafede Vitali - - - . 229 

1733. Siege of Milan - - - . 30 
Journey of Goldoni to Modena .... 230 
Disasters which he met with . ... 231 

1734. His " Belisarius " acted at Vienna - - - 232 
Good Fortune which he meets with at Genoa - 233 
His Marriage ... . . .233 

He attempts to reform the Italian Theatre ... 233 

The old Comedy of Italy - . - . -234 

Goldoni obtains the Genoese Consulship at Venice . . 235 

He meets with a Ragusan Adventurer . - 35 

1741. His Play on the Subject . . -235 

His Life at Rimini - - .. -236 

His Journey to Cattolica, and the Misfortune that befel him - 237 
He becomes a Pleader at the Pisan Bar . . 288 

His Comedies - - . 238 

His Style . . 39 

The Plot of his " Donne Purftigliose - - 240 



A. D. Page 

Story of the " Donna Prudente " - 241 

His " Pettegollezzi " - 241 

The Subject of " Villeggiatura " and the " Smanie della Vil- 

leggiatura - - - 242 

His other Comedies - - - 243 

1760. He receives an Offer from the French Court - - 245 

1761. His Debut as an Author in the French Capital - - 246 
1792. His Death - - - 246 


The Italian Poets of the early Ages - - 247 

1749. (17th of January.) Birth of Vittorio Al fieri - -250 

His noble Origin - - - - 250 

His Childhood - - - 251 

His Education - - 252 

Account of the Academy of Turin - - -252 

System of Education - - 253 

Effect of Music on the Mind of Alfieri - - 255 
Circumstances of his Life altered by the Death of his Uncle - 256 

1763. Change of his Situation in College - - 256 
Effect of this on his Conduct - - 256 
His Extravagance - - _- . . - 257 
His Confinement - - - 257 

1764. His Liberation on the Marriage of his Sister Julia - 258 
His Return to College . 259 

1765. His Journey to Genoa - . - 259 

1766. He enters the Provincial Army of Asti - 260 
His dislike of Military Discipline; he obtains Leave of Ab- 
sence - 2SO 

His Tour - - - -261 

His second Leave of Absence ; his second Tout - - 265 

His first Entrance into Paris - - 265 

His enthusiastic Feelings on visiting England - - 266 

He returns to Turin, and resides with his Sister - - 267 

1769. He takes another Tour f - 1> i; : -268 

His second Visit to England ; his Love Adventure -, - 269 

He returns to Paris - - 271 

His Quarrel with his Servant . . 271 

1772. Returns to Turin, and becomes a Cavaliere Servente - 272 

1774. He determines to break off this disgraceful Intercourse - 274 

His first Attempt at Composition - 274 

1777. He enters into an Engagement with the Public to write 

Tragedies . . - 276 

He visits Siena ; his Friendship with Francesco Gqri - 278 

He visits Florence - - - 279 
His Attachment for Louisa de Stolberg, Countess of Albany - 280 

He makes a Donation of his Property to his Sister Julia - 280 

The dibtinguishing Marks of his Dramas . 282 


A. D. Page 

Distinction between Shakspeare and other Dramatic Writers - 283 
Alfieri, his Tragedy of " Philip," its Subject - 284 

He continues the Amico di Casa of the Countess of Albany . 286 
Cruel Conduct of her Husband - - 286 

She is separated from him 286 

Alfieri at Rome with the Countess - - - 287 

1782. He completes his fourteen Tragedies . -288 
His Intercourse with the Countess of Albany begins to excite 

Censure .... 289 

He goes into voluntary Exile in consequence of his Sufferings - 290 

1783. He visits England to purchase Horses - 290 
He returns to Italy - .291 
His Visit to the Countess of Albany at Alsatia - .291 
He composes his " Agis," " Sofonisba," and " Mirra " . 291 
Death of his Friend Gori - - 292 
Returns to Siena - - - 292 
Countess of Albany visits Paris ... 293 
She goes to Baden, where she is joined by Alfieri - - 293 
Residence of Alfieri at Colmar - - 293 

1787. His Illness ; visited by his Friend the Abbate Caluso - 293 

The Countess at Paris ; Alfieri joins her - -293 

Death of her Husband - - -294 

Corrected Editions of AVfieri's Tragedies . - 294 

1790. His Translation of the Comedies of Terence - - 294 
His Treatise on " Princes and Literature ; " Critique on his 

Style - . - - 295 

1791. He accompanies the Countess of Albany to England - 296 
They return to Paris - - - 296 

1792. (10th of August.) The French Revolution - - 296 
Imprisonment of Louis XVI. - - 296 
Departure of the Countess and Alfieri from Paris ; their Fur- 

niture, Horses, and Books confiscated - - 297 

They return to Florence ... 297 

The Tragedy of " Saul " acted, Alfieri performing the Part of 

the King . -298 

He studies the Greek Language - - - 299 

Invasion of Italy by the French - -299 

Alfieri and the Countess leave Florence - - 299 

French driven from Tuscany - 299 

Second Invasion of the French ; Effect of these political Events 

on the Mind of Alfieri - - - 300 

1803- (8th of October.) His Death - - .301 

His Tomb - - - - -301 


Arcadian Poetry . . . .303 

1754. (19th of February.) His Birth . ... 305 

His Parentage - . .305 


A. D. Page 

Italian Farmers - - - 305 

Early Boyhood of Monti - -306 

Anecdote of him . . 306 

His Studies at Faenza - - -307 
Destined by his Father to Agricultural Labour; his Dislike of 

this Occupation - 307 

Ineffectual Attempts of his Father to overcome this - 308 

His first Italian Poem ; he adopts Alighieri as his Model - 308 

His " Vision of Ezekiel" - - 308 

Cardinal Borghese takes Monti under his Protection j he 

accompanies the Cardinal to Rome . 309 
1780. The Arcadians of the Bosco Parrasio celebrate the Quiuquenalli 

of Pius VI. . 309 

Monti made Secretary to the Duke of Braschi - 309 

His want of political Integrity - 310 

His Ode on the Marriage of the Duke of Braschi - 311 

1779. His Ambition excited by the Emulation inspired by Alfieri - 311 

1 787. His " Aristodemo " acted at Rome with great Success - 312 

Plot of this Tragedy - - .312 

Marriage of Monti - . - 313 

Hugh Basseville - - - 314 

Sent by the French to spread their Revolutionary Tenets 

beyond the Alps . 314 

His History of the French Revolution . - 315 

1793. His Assassination - . . 315 

(January 19th.) Louis XVI. beheaded - . 315 

Monti, his Poem, the "Basvilliana " - . 315 

His Poem on the French Revolution . - -316 

His Plagiarism - - - 316 

Spread of French Republicanism - 317 
Defeat of the Austrians ... 217 

1797. (January 3d.) Cisalpine Republic erected - 318 

Monti meets General Marmont at Rome . - 318 

He proceeds with him to Florence . - 818 

Monti, his Admiration of Napoleon . - 318 

/Made Secretary of Foreign Affairs at Milan - 319 

He suffers Persecution .. 319 

A Law passed by the Cisalpine Republic - 319 

Monti loses his Situation in consequence . - 319 

His " Musogonia " . - -319 

Subject of his Poem entitled " Prometeo " . 3S20 

He obtains the Professor's Chair of Belles Lettres in Brera - 321 

1799. SuvarofF and the Austrians drive the French from Italy - 321 

End of the Italian Republics . - 321 

Deplorable Destitution of Monti during his Exile - - 321 

Goes to Paris on the Invitation of Mareschalchi - - 322 

He composes a Hymn and an Ode on the Victory of Marengo - 322 

He returns to Italy . - - - 323 

His Poem, the " Mascheroniana," - - - 323 


A..D. Page 

His Tragedy, " Caius Gracchus " - 3to 

1802. The Cisalpine Congress meet at Lyons - 326 

Bonaparte made President - - 326 

Monti, his Ode to Napoleon in the Name of the Congress - 326 

He obtains a Professorship at Pavia - - 327 
Goes to Milan, where a Number of Offices are conferred on him 327 

180& Napoleon crowned King of Italy - - 327 

Monti commanded to celebrate the Event - - 327 

He composes his " II Benificio " - 328 

His " Spada di Federico " .. - . 329 
His " Palingenesi " ... 329 

His " Jerogamia " - 331 

Remarks on " the Winged Horse of Arsinoe " . 332 

Translation of the Iliad - - - 332 

Visconti, his Praise of Monti's Iliad . 333 

1814. Overthrow of Napoleon - - 333 

Monti loses all his public Employments - 333 

Pensions bestowed on him by the Emperor of Austria - - 333 

He composes the " Mistico Omaggio " 3S4 

His other Works - - -335 

1812. Marriage of his Daughter - 335 

Her Poem " On a Rose " 335 
The Delia Crusca Controversy ... 335 

Different Dialects of Italy - - .336 

Bocca Romana - - - 337 

Florentine Dialect - - . .337 

Dispute of Monti with the Tuscans . - 338 

Extracts from his Letters to his Friend Mustoxidi - 338 

Monti resides at Milan - - - 340 

Beauty of his Recitation . S41 
Extract of his Letters to a Friend on the Classic and Romantic 

Schools - - 341 

18211822. Monti resides with his Daughter and Son-in-law, at 

Pesaro - - - .543 

1821. Monti, his Letter to his Wife - ... 343 
Another Letter to his Wife - 344 

1822. His Letter, giving a Picture of Italian Manners - - 345 
His Visit to Pesaro on the Death of his Son-in-law - - 347 
His Letter to his Friend Mustoxidi - - 347 

1823. His Illness - - 348 
1828. (13th of October.) His Death - - - 350 

His Character - - .850 

His Person - . - - 351 


1778. His Birth - . . -354 

His Origin - - . - 354 

The Ionian Islands - - 355 


A. D. Page 

Foscolo studies at Padua under Cesarotti - 355 

1797. His Tragedy of " Thyestes " represented at Venice - - 357 
Foscolo becomes a voluntary Exile 357 

His " Letters of Jacopo Ortis " - 357 

His Opinion of Bonaparte - . .359 

He visits Tuscany . 360 

And Florence - - - - 360 

He goes to Milan ; Description of the Cisalpine Republic 361 

Foscolo becomes acquainted with Monti - - 361 

Likeness between him and his imaginary Hero, Ortis 362 

His unfortunate Attachment for a Pisan Lady - - 362 

He joins the Lombard Legion - 363 

1800. Invasion of the Austrio-Russians - 363 

Foscolo joins the French Army at Genoa - - 363 

Siege of Genoa - - - 364 

Foscolo, his Letter to Bonaparte ... 364 

(June 4th.) Surrender of Genoa - . 365 

Conveyance of the Garrison to France by the English Fleet ; 

Foscolo accompanies them - - 365 

"Ortis" - - - .366 

Comparison between Goethe's " Werter " and " Ortis " .366 

Person and Manners of Foscolo - . 369 

1802. Meeting of a Congress at Lyons to reform the Cisalpine Re- 
public . . 370 
Foscolo, his " Oration to Bonaparte " - 370 
Foscolo holds a Commission in the Italian Legion . 372 
His Translation of Sterne's " Sentimental Journey " . 373 

1805. He becomes intimate with General Caffarelli . .375 

The Brescians - . - - 375 

Foscolo, his " Ode on Sepulchres " 375 

1808. He is made Professor of Eloquence in the University of Pavia j 

his Introductory Oration . 377 

He incurs the Displeasure of Bonaparte - . 378 

Loses his Professorship, and retires to the Lake of Como - 378 
Description of the Lake ... 573 

His Tragedy of " Ajax "... 379 
Its Politics found fault with ; he is persecuted in consequence 380 
He is exiled from Milan, and visits Tuscany . . 380 

1813. Manifesto of Lord William Bentinck . . 382 

Treaty of Fontainebleau - 382 

Foscolo, his Adherence to the Cause of Liberty - - 384 

His Conversation with.Pecchio . . 385 

He resides in Italy ... $85 

Lord Castlereagh . . .386 

Arrival of Foscolo in England - - 386 

His Retreat at St. John's Wood - . -387 

1822. Pecchio visits him - - 387 

Foscolo, his " Ricciarda " ... 388 

The Siory on which it is founded ... 388 


A. D. Page 

Dedicated to Lord William Russell - - 388 

1823. Lady Dacre interests herself in behalf of Foscolo - - 389 

Description of Foscolo'i House at South Bank - 389 

Imprudence of Foscolo ; his pecuniary Difficulties - 392 

1827. (October 10th.) His Death 392 

His Character . - - 393 








*. D. Page 
Preliminary Remarks - - - 1 
Aborigines of Spain - . - 2 
Silius Italicus - - . . 2 
Lucan - . - 2 
The Senecaa - - ~ . .2 
The Roman Power in Spain annihilated by the Visigoths - 3 
Anecdotes of the Goths - . . .3 
Conquest of Spain by the Moors . 3 
The University of Cordova founded by Abdorrhaman III. . 4 
Settlement of the Jews in Spain - . .4 
Arabic Authors - - _ 5 
The Romances Moriscos - - . - 5 
Troubadours - - . - . - 5 
Mosen Jordi de Sant Jordi - - . . 6 
The Redondillas - - . _ 7 
The Cancionero general and the Romancero general . .9 
Quotation from Doctor Bowring's Translation of the Redon- 
dillas . . _ 9 
Romances of Chivalry - . . . 10 

1325. Vasco Lobeira - - . . 10 

Alphonso X., surnamed the Wise . . - 11 
The Cultivation which he bestowed on the Castilian Language 11 

His Works . . . . . H 

The Alphonsine Tables - . . . n 

Alphonso XI. - . . w - 11 

Spain desolated by Civil Wars - .12 


A. D. Page 

Juan Ruiz ... - 12 

1407. John II., his disastrous Reign - -12 

The Marquis of Villena institutes Floral Games - - 13 

1434. His Death , ... . 13 

Marquis of Santillana - - 13 

Marcias, his melancholy Fate - . - 13 

1412. Juan de Mena, the Ennius of Spain . - 14 

His Birth - - . -14 

His Origin - - 14 

He studies at the University of Salamanca - - - 14 

His Works - - ... - 15 

1456. His Death - - - - 15 
Quintano, his Opinion of the " Labyrinto" - - 15 
Juan de Enzina, Author of the first Spanish Playa - - 17 
His Birth - ... 17 
His Songs and Lyrics - - 18 
His Name becomes proverbial in Spain by his Song of Con- 
traries or Absurdities - - 18 
A Quotation from Doctor Bowring's Translation - - 18 
Union of the Crowns of Castile and Arragon - - - 19 
Castilian adopted as the classic Language of the Country . 20 


The first Spanish Poet who introduced the Italian Style - 21 

1500. His Birth - - . - 21 

His noble Descent - - - - 21 

His Marriage - - 21 

^ Chosen Governor to the Duke of Alva - - - 22 

1525. Andrea Navagero, the Venetian Ambassador - -22 

His Arrival at the Court of Charles V. at Toledo ; he meets 

with Boscan and Garcilaso 

He induces them to quit their national Redondillas - .22 

This Circumstance referred to by Boscan in the Dedication of 

his Poems to the Duchess of Soma - - - 23 

A Translation of one of Garcilaso's Poems - - - 24 

Translation of the Epistle of Boscan to Don Diego Hurtado de 

Mendoza - - . . - 8 

1548. Petrarch and Boscan compared - - - 34 


His illustrious Descent - - - -36 

1503. His Birth - - . - 37 

Accession of Charles V. - - 38 

Death of Cardinal Ximenes ... S3 
Election of Charles to the Imperial Crown, and his intended 

Departure for Germany ... 

Revolution in Spain in consequence . - 38 


Garcilaso distinguishes himself at the Battle of Pavia - - 39 

1528. His Marriage - - . . 39 

1532. Invasion of Hungary by Solyman - - - 39 

Garcilaso falls into Disgrace at Court - 39 

His Exile - - - - 39 

His Ode in Commemoration of his Imprisonment - - 40 

Muley Hassan driven out of Algiers by Barbarossa, who pos- 

sesses himself of it - - - - - 40 

He fortifies the Citadel - - - - 41 

Algiers invested by the Emperor Charles - - - 41 
Garcilaso serves in the Imperial Army ; his Gallantry nearly 

proves fatal to him - ... 41 

Return of Charles to Italy - - . - 41 

Garcilaso, his Residence at Naples - - -41 

Quotation from his Elegy to Boscan - - -42 

15S5. (5th of August) Cardinal Bemboa, his Letter to a Friend in 

Commendation of Garcilaso - - - - 42 

His Letter to Garcilaso - - - - 44 
Charles V. enters France j he recals Garcilaso, and confers on 

him the Command over eleven Companies of Infantry - 45 

Epistle of Garcilaso to Boscan from Vaucluse - - 45 

1536. Death of Garcilaso while attacking a Tower - - - 46 

His Character - - - . - 47 
His Children . - - - -47 

His second Eclogue - - - - 47 
Quotation from it - -49 

Translation of his Ode to the " Flower of Gnido" - - 53 


His numerous Titles - - - - .58 

1500. His Birth - - - 58 

His noble Extraction - - - - 58 

Originality of his Genius - - - - 59 

He studies Theology in the University of Salamanca - - 59 

He leaves the Clerical Profession - - - 59 

Appointed Ambassador to Venice - - 59 

1545. Deputed to attend the Council of Trent - - 60 

1547. He is made Governor and Captain General of Siena - -60 

TheSalvi ... - 60 

1545. A new Oligarchy erected in Siena - - 61 

Revolt of Siena - - - - - 61 

M endoza, his Government ; he leaves Siena ; on the Death of 

Paul III. he repairs to Rome to watch the Progress of the 

Conclave - - - - - 62 

The Sieuece take Advantage of his Absence, and solicit the Aid 

of the French King - - 63 
Mendoza applies to the Pope for Assistance ; he evades his Re- 
quest - . - 63 


A. a Page 

1552. Loss of Siena to the Emperor - - - 63 

1554. Recal of Mendoza to Spain - - 64 

1557. Battle of St. Quentin - - - 65 

Mendoza present at it; characteristic Adventure related of 

him - - 65 

He composes his Work on " Hie History of the War of the 

Moriscos in Granada " - - - - 65 

1776. A complete Edition of his Works published - - - 67 

1775. Death of Mendoza ; his Character - - - 67 

Critique on his Poetry - - * - - - 68 


Preliminary Remarks .... - 70 

1527. His Birth .,.'.- . . . - - 71 

His Childhood - - - - . - 71 
Becomes Doctor of Theology to the University of Salamanca - 72 

1561. His Election to the Chair of St. Thomas - - - 72 

His Enemies -*'-,- - - - - 72 

1572. He translates the Song of Solomon into Spanish, for which he is 

imprisoned by the Inquisition at Valladolid - - - 72 

His Odes to the Virgin written during his Imprisonment - 73 

1576. His Liberation - - - - - 76 

He visits Madrid 76 

1591. He is elected Vicar-General of his Province - - 76 

(23d of August.) His Death ... -76 

His Person - - - - . -76 

His Character - -77 

His Theological Works - - . - 78 

His Translations - - - - . . .78 

A Quotation from one of his Odes, and a Translation of it - 79 


An Account of him by Rodrigo Caro . - - 83 
Opinions of different Spanish Writers on his Poems - -86 

His " Ode to Sleep " . . . .37 


149*. His Birth ". . 88 

Style of his Poetry . .OR 

1520. His Birth 

Origin of his Name - . 

He emigrates to Castile . ' . 

His Work " Diana," critical Remarks on it 

1661. Supposed Time of his Death 




1580. Fernando de Acuna - - - - 92 

1550. Gil Polo - - - - -92 

Cetina - - - - 93 

1596. Cristoval Castillejo - - ... 93 

His Satires - - - 93 


" Celestina, Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea " - - 95 

The Plot of this Play - - - 95 

1515. A Translation of the Amphitryon of Plautus, printed, and of 

the Electra of Sophocles - - 96 

Perez de Oliva - - - - 96 

Obscurity of the earliest regular Dramas written in Spanish - 97 

Bartolome Torres Naharro, his Dramatic Writings - - 97 

Lope de Rueda, his Birth - 98 

Account of him by Cervantes - . - 98 

His Plays . 99 

State of Literature under Charles V. - 100 

Originality the Distinctive of the Spanish Character - - 101 


Preliminary Remarks ... 103 

1533. (7th of March.) Don Alonso de Ercilla ; his Birth - - 104 
His Ancestors - - - *" - - 104 

His Education - - - - 10* 

He is made Page of Honour to Prince Philip - - 104 

Ambition of Charles V. - -105 

Insurrection of the Araucanos in South America . . 105 

The Charge of subduing them committed to Geronimo de Al- 

derete - - - - - 10S 

Ercilla leaves the personal Service of the Prince, and follows 

the Adelantado to the East - - -106 

Expedition of Don Garcia against the Araucanos - - 106 

Ercilla distinguishes himself in the Indian War - - 107 

Philip II. succeeds to the Throne of Spain - - 108 

Ercilla escapes an early and disastrous End - 109 

Cruelties committed by Lope de Aguirre on the Indians at Ve- 
nezuela - ... HO 
1562. Ercilla returns to Spain ; his Marriage - - 111 
He is appointed Chamberlain to Maximilian II. - 112 
1580. His Destitution and Abandonment - - 112 
1595. The supposed Time of his Death - - US 
His Character . - - m - 113 
His " Araucana ;" Analysis and partial Translation of it - 115 
Critique on it. - - - - 116 



A. D. Page 

Preliminary Remarks - - - 120 

1547. (9th of October.) His Birth - - 123 

His Origin - - - - 123 

His early Studies - - - - 123 

1569. Death of Isabella of Valois, Wife of Philip 1 1. - . - 124 

Lopez de Hoyos - -124 

Cervantes quits Madrid - - 125 

1568. He enters the Service of the Cardinal Acquaviva - -125 

1569. He visits Rome - - 126 
He enlists under General Antonio Colonna in the Campaign 

against the Turks - - 126 

1571. The combined Fleets of Venice, Spain, and the Pope assemble 

at Messina - - 126 

(7th of October.) Battle of Lepanto - -127 

Gallant Conduct of Cervantes - - 127 

He is wounded, and remains in the Hospital at Messina six 

Months - - 128 

1572. Don John of Austria - - -128 
Second Campaign against the Turks - 128 
The Spaniards alone prosecute the War - - 128 
Attempted and unsuccessful Assault on the Castle of Navarino - 128 

1573. The Venetians sign a Peace with Selim - - 129 
Cervantes enters Tunis with the Marquis de Santa Cruz, and 

returns to Palermo with the Fleet - - 12S 

Cervantes obtains leave to return to Spain ... 129 
The Galley he embarked in attacked by an Algerine Squad. 

ron - .... 139 

He is taken Prisoner by the Arnaout Captain - ISO 

Piracies carried on by the Algerine Corsairs - - - 131 

Their System . 131 

Interesting Details of the Captivity of Cervantes - - 131 

His Tale of the " Captive " - 131 

1576. His first Attempt at Escape with some of his Companions . 133 
Its Failure - - - .133 
Gabridl de CastaSedo ransomed ; he brings Letters from Cer- 

vantes to his Father - 133 

1577. His Father unable to procure Money to ransom both him and 

his Brother ; Cervantes gives up his Share to secure the Free- 
dom of his Brother - 131 

He arranges another Plan of Escape - 134 

1578. He is purchased by Hassan Aga - 137 

1579. He concerts a new Plan of Escape with the Renegade Abd-al- 

Rhamen - - 138 

Is again betrayed - - 138 

His Liberation - - - - 140 

He refutes certain Calumnies, of which he was the Object - 141 

1581. Landing of Cervantes in Spain - - 142 














He again enters the Army ; he embarks in the Squadron of 

Don Pedro .... - 143 

He serves in a naval Battle under Santa Cruz - - 143 

Also at the Taking of Terceira - - 143 

He publishes his "Galatea" - - 145 

His Marriage .... -145 

He accepts the Situation of Commissary to the Invincible 

Armada . . - 147 

His Office abolished - - 148 

He manages the Affairs, and becomes the Friend, of Don 

Hernando de Toledo - 148 

His two Sonnets - . . - 149 

The Subject of the first - - - - 149 

A magnificent Catafalque erected in the Cathedral of Seville 

on the Death of Philip II. - 149 

Sonnet of Cervantes to the Monument of the King at Seville - 151 
Anecdote of a mercantile Casualty which happened to 

Cervantes ; financial Annoyance - 151 

Another Anecdote - - 152 

He removes to Valladolid - - - 153 

He becomes the Victim of litigious Proceedings - - 154 

He composes his " Don Quixote " - - - 155 

He returns to Spain - ... 156 

A Story respecting the Dedication of " Don Quixote " to the 

Duke of Bejar - - 157 

Disputes respecting the Existence of the " Buscapie " 158 

Satires against " Don Quixote " - - - - 160 

James I. of England sends Lord Howard to present a Treaty of 

Peace to Philip III., and to congratulate him on the Birth of 

his Son ...... 161 

An Account of these Festivities, written by Cervantes . . 161 
An Event occurs by which Cervantes is greatly distressed - 161 
He follows the Court to Madrid - - 163 

Despotism and Bigotry extend their Influence over Spain - 163 
Kindness of Don Bernardo de Sandoval, Archbishop of Toledo, 

to Cervantes - - 163 

Count of Lemos made Viceroy of Naples . . - 164 

The Argensolas, surnamed the Horaces of Spain - . 164 

Disappointment of Cervantes at their Neglect - - -164 

Anecdote of Philip III. . 165 

The Censorship of "Don Quixote" intrusted to Francisco 

Marquez Torres ... 166 

His Account of the Neglect with which the Spaniards treated 

Cervantes - 

Preface to the " Twelve Tales " of Cervantes 
He publishes his " Voyage to Parnassus " 
Preface to his Work, " Comedias y Entremeses 
Poetic Games 

The " Don Quixote " of Avellanada 
Indignation of Cervantes on iu Publication 


- 166 

- 167 

- 170 

- 170 


A. D. Page 

Illness of Cervantes . - - - - 172 

1616. His Excursion from Esquivias to Madrid - - - 172 

His Adieu to the World - - 173 
His Dedication to his Protector, the Count of Lemos - 174 

(23d of April.) His Death . . - - 174 

His Will - - - 174 

His Character - . . . - 175 

His " Galatea " . - - 175 

His " Numantia ; " the Plot of this Play . - - 176 

His Comedy of " A Life in Algiers " . 178 

Godwin's Opinion of " Don Quixote " - 182 

Remarks on " Don Quixote " - - 182 

Extracts from " Voyage to Parnassus " - - - 184 


His Career and that of Cervantes compared - - - 189 

Epithets of Praise heaped on him - - - 190 

1562. His Birth - - . , - - 190 

His Parentage - - . - 191 

His Boyhood - - - - - 191 

An Adventure related of him while at School - - - 192 

He becomes the Protege of Geronimo Manrique, the Grand 

Inquisitor - - 193 

He enters the University of Alcala ... - 193 

He enters the Service of the Duke of Alva - - 194 

His " Arcadia ; " a Detail of the Story - - - 195 

1598. Publication of the "Arcadia" - - -198 

Lope de Vega leaves the Duke's Service ... 193 

His Marriage - - - - - - 199 

He is engaged in a Duel, which causes him to go to Valencia . 199 
He returns to Madrid ; Death of his Wife - - -200 

1588. He becomes a Soldier, and joins the Invincible Armada - - 200 
His Eclogue to Claudio - - 200 

1604. His Sonnets ... - - 200 

A Translation of two of his Sonnets .... 202 
Some Account of his " Dorotea " - - 204 

Sanguine Expectations of the Invincible Armada - -209 

Piratical Expeditions of Drake and Hawkins excite the Ani- 
mosity and Vengeance of the Spaniards - 209 
An animated Description of the setting forth of the Invincible 

Armada, by Lope de Vega - 210 

He composes " The Beauty of Angelica " - 210 

3590. He returns from the Armada, and enters the Service of Count 

Lemos - - 211 

His second Marriage - - 211 

1620. His Work, " The True Lover " 

Extracts from his Epistles - 213 

Uncertain Dates of the various Events of his Life - - 216 


A. D. Page 

1508. Canonisation of St. Isidro . - - 217 

The Reputation of Lope de Vega awakens the Enmity of 

Rivals and Critics - - - 217 

His War with Gongora -' - -218 

1616. His unexampled Popularity - - 219 

1621. His Novel - -219 

His " Soliloquies on God " - - - 220 

His Poem on the Death of Mary Queen of Scots - - 220 

Exaggerated Account of the Quantity of his Writings - 220 
Anecdote of him and Montalvan ... 221 

Extract from his Poems - - 222 

1635. His Presentiments of his approaching Dissolution - -225 

(18th of August) His Death - - -226 

His Funeral ^- - - - 226 

His Person - - 227 

His Character - - - 227 

The " Dragontea " - - - - 228 

The " Jerusalem " - - 229 

Difficulties of establishing the Theatre in Spain - - 230 

Spanish Theatres - - - - 231 

Analysis of the " Star of Seville," by Lord Holland - 233 

Sacred Dramas and Autos Sacramentales of Lope de Vega - 235 

Incongruities of his Plots -. - - 236 


The Poetry of Spain . - - - 238 

1544. Birth of V,icente Espinel - 239 

His Parentage ... _ 39 

1634. His Death . -240 
1595. Birth of Estevan Manuel de Villegas, named the Anacieon of 

Spain _ -240 

His Parentage - - . 240 

1618. His original Anacreontics published . .240 

1626. His Marriage - . . -241 
1669. His Death . . -241 

Translation of one of his Sapphics . - 242 


1561. (llth of July.) His Birth - .243 

His Parentage . - 243 

A cursory Review of his Life - - - 243 

1627. (2h of May.) His Death - - - -244 
His Person and Disposition ', - - 245 
His early Poetry - - 45 
His Style - ' V .245 
His " Song of Catherine of Arragon" . 246 
Extract from his Songs ... 47 
His System - - . . 48 



A. D. Page 

Quotations from Lope de Vega, showing the Absurdity of Gon- 

gora's Style . -248 

The " Polyphemus " of Gongora - . 252 

Extract from his " Solitudes " - - -252 


The Talent and Genius of the Spaniards during the fourteenth 

and fifteenth Centuries - - 255 

Their Energies and Genius blighted by the Infamy of the 

Political Institutions - - - 256 

1580. (September.) Birth of Quevedo - - 256 

His Parentage - 256 

He enters the University of AlcalS - 256 

A Circumstance occurs which obliges him to quit the Court 257 
He takes refuge in Italy - - 258 

Don Pedro Giron Duke of Osuna - 258 

His Character - - - 258 

The Court of Philip III. - - 258 

Quevedo sent as Ambassador to Madrid - - 259 

His Success ; a Pension bestowed on him - 259 

Duke of Osuna advanced to the Viceroyalty of Naples ; his Vic- 
tories over the Turks - - 259 
The Spanish Power threatens to become omnipotent in Italy - 260 
Charles Emanuel endeavours to make head against it - 260 
The Duke of Osuna opposes the Venetians - 260 
The lawless and dishonourable Means he takes . . 260 
He protects the Uscocchi against the Venetians - - 260 
The Merchants of Naples and the French make Representations 

at the Court of Madrid in consequence - - 260 

Osuna ordered to suspend Hostilities - 260 

1618. The Bedmar Conspiracy - - 261 

Quevedo and Osuna supposed to be implicated in the Plot - 262 
Quevedo escapes from Venice -262 

Osuna continues Viceroy of Naples ; he is suspected of intend- 
ing to arrogate Power independent of the King * - 263 
He is ordered to return to Madrid ... 263 
Cautious proceedings of the Court with respect to him - 264 
Cardinal Don Gaspar de Borgia is named his Successor - - 264 
Return of Osuna to Spain ... 264 
1624. His Imprisonment and Death - - 264 
1620. Quevedo, his attachment to Osuna - - 264 
He is suspected of participating in his treasonable Designs - 265 
His Imprisonment in consequence - - 265 
His Liberation - - 265 
1632. He is made Secretary to the King - - 266 
1634. He leaves the Church, and marries - - 266 
His Wife dies - - 266 
His own Words, alluding to his evil Fate , - 67 


A. n. Page 
1641. He is suspected of being the Author of certain Libels ; is 

arrested and imprisoned in Consequence . - 206 

Two Letters of his . . ,-289 

His Memorial to Count Olivarez - -270 

His Liberation - - .-271 

1647. (September 8th.) His Death - . -272 

His Person - - - -272 

His Character - - - 272 

His Style - - 273 
A singular Circumstance appertaining to his literary Career - 274 

Critique on his Prose Writings - ZK 

His " Vision of Calvary " - . .276 

His " Alguazil possessed " . . - 277 


Misrule and Oppression destroy the Spirit and Intellect of Spain 278 

Luzan - - - - 278 

Moratin - - - -278 

1601. Birth of Calderon - - -279 

His illustrious Descent - - - 279 

He enters the University of Salamanca - - 279 

1620. He leaves Salamanca - - 280 

1626. He enters the Military Service - - -280 

He serves in the Milanese and Flanders - 280 

1637. He is recalled to Court - - 280 
Innumerable Dramas appear under the patronage of Philip IV. 280 

He summons Calderon to his Court - 281 

1650. Marriage of Philip VI. with Maria Ana of Austria - - 281 

Calderon quits the military Career, and becomes a Priest - 281 

1654. He becomes Chaplain to the Royal Chapel at Toledo - - 282 

1687. (May 29th.) His Death - - - 282 

His Character - - - - 282 

Characteristics of his Plays - - - 283 

Character of his Poetry - - - 285 



Original Portuguese Tongue ... 288; 

Alphonso Henriquez, Founder of the Portuguese Monarchy - 288 

Portuguese Poetry - - - 289 

1487. Bartolomeo Diaz doubles the Cape of Good Hope - - 299 

Vasco de Gama visits the Shores of India . . 299 

A Portuguese Kingdom founded in Hindostan - - 290 

Bernardim Ribeyro, the Ennius of Portugal . - 290 

Saa de Miranda, Founder of Portuguese Poetry - - 291 

Gil Vicente, the Portuguese Plautus - - 292 

Antonio Ferreira, the Portuguese Horace 292 


A. D. Page 

1569. His Death - - - -293 

His Style . - - - - 293 


Camoens and Cervantes, their Destiny similar in many Respects 295 
1817. The " Lusiad," Translation of it - 295 

Origin of the Family of Camoens ... 295 

Derivation of his Name - .296 

1370. Vasco Perez de Camoens takes the Part of Castile against Por- 
tugal - . -297 
1524. Birth of Camoens - - 298 
1308. Foundation of the University of Coimbra by King Diniz - 299 
1537. Camoens enters the University of Coimbra - - 300 
Extract from his fourth Canzone - - 301 
Another Extract from another - - 301 
1545. He leaves Coimbra - - - - 302 
His Arrival at Court - - 302 
He falls in Love j his Sonnet in Commemoration of this Occa- 
sion ... . ,. . 303 
The Poetry of Camoens and Petrarch compared . - 304 
Translations of Camoens' Sonnets, by Doctor Southey - 306 
Exile of Camoens from the Palace - - - 306 
Writes several of his Lyrics during his Banishment - - 307 
Lord Strangford's Translation of an Elegy written at this 

Time - - -307 

1550. Bravery of Camoens while with the Troops at Ceuta - - 310 

Loses one of his Eyes in a naval Engagement in the Straits of 
Gibraltar ..... 310 

1553. He embarks for India - - - - 310 
Don Alfonso de Noronha, Viceroy of Goa - 312 
Camoens joins the Armament sent from Goa against the King 

of Cochin - - - - - - S12 

Returns to Goa - - . . - 319 

Death of Antonio de Noronha - - 312 

Camoens' Letter to a Friend, inclosing a Sonnet and Elegy on 

his Death - - - - 313 

1554. Dom Pedro Mascarenhas succeeds Noronha in the Viceroyalty 

of Goa ... .315 

Cruising of the Mahometans detrimental to the Portuguese . 315 

Expedition of de Vasconcellos to protect the Merchantmen - 315 

Camoens joins this Expedition - - - 315 

1555. Returns to Goa, and writes his ninth Canzone - - 315 
Extortion and Tyranny of the Portuguese Government - 316 
Causes Camoens to write his Satire*" Follies of India " - 316 

1556. Departs from Goa in the Fleet which Barreto despatched to the 

South . . . .317 

Is appointed Commissary - . 317 

Description of Camoens' Grotto at Macao - - 318 

He composes the " Lusiad" - - 318 


A. D. Page 

On his Return to Goa he is wrecked on the River Mecon - 319 
Arrives at Goa; the Kindness with which he is received by the 

new Governor, Dom Constantine de Braganza - . 320 

Accused of Malversation in the Exercise of his Office at Macao 320 
Extract from the " Lusiad ** - S20 

Camoens pursues his military Career in India - - 321 

He commemorates the Death of Dona Catarinade Atayde . 322 
Pedro Barreto appointed Governor of Sofala in. the Mozam- 
bique - - - ... 323 
Camoens accompanies him - - 323 
His dependent State - - - - - 323 
Quarrels with Barreto - - -323 
Arrival of his Indian Friends, who supply hi* Wants, and 

invite him to accompany them - - 324 

Barreto refuses to let him go until he paid 200 Ducats - . 324 
He accompanies his Friends home - - 325 

1569. Arrives at Lisbon - - 325 

The Plague at Lisbon - 325 

Political State of the Kingdom disadvantageous to Camoens - 325 

1571. The " Lusiad " published - - - 326 

Melancholy Circumstances attending the last Days of Ca- 
moens - . . - - - 327 

3578. Defeat of Sebastian in Africa - - - 328 

Its Effect on Camoens - - - .328 

1579. Last Scene of Camoens' Life - - -328 

His Tomb - - . . -329 

His Person . . . 329 

A Review of his Life - - - 330 

Extract from the " Lusiad/' and a Critique on it - .332 


DANTE - - 1 



LORENZO DE' MEDICI, &c. - 150 

BOJARDO - 181 

BERNI - - 188 

ARIOSTO - - 196 


MACHIAVELLI - - - 256 




ITALY. 12651321. 

" 'Tis the doom 

Of spirits of my order to be rack'd 

In life; to wear their hearts out, and consume 

Their days in endless strife, and die alone : 

Then future thousands crowd around their tomb, 

And pilgrims come from climes where they have known 

The name of Him, who now is but a name; 

And wasting homage o'er the sullen stone, 

Spread his, by him unheard, unheeded, fame." 

LORD BYRON'S Prophecy of Dante, Canto I. 

AMONG the illustrious fathers of song who, in their 
own land, cannot cease to exercise dominion over the 
minds, characters, and destinies of all posterity, and 
who, beyond its frontiers, must continue to influence the 
taste, and help to form the genius, of those who shall 
exercise like authority in other countries, Dante Ali- 
ghieri is, undoubtedly, one of the most remarkable. 

This poet was descended from a very ancient stock, 
which, according to Boccaccio, traced its lineage to the 
Roman house of Frangipani, one of whose members, 
surnamed Eliseo, was said to have been an early settler, 
if not a principal founder, of the restored city of Flo- 

VOL. I. H 


rence, in the reign of Charlemagne, after it had lain deso- 
late for several centuries, subsequently to its destruction 
by Attila the Hun. From this Eliseo sprang a family, 
of which Dante gives, in the fifteenth and sixteenth cantos 
of his <e Paradise/' such information, as he thought pro- 
per ; making Cacciaguida (one of its most distinguished 
chiefs, who fell fighting in the crusade under the emperor 
Conrad III.,) sav j rather ambiguously, of those who 
went before him, that <f who they were, and whence 
they came, it is more honest to keep silence than to 
tell," probably, however, intending no more than to 
disclaim vain boasting, but not by any means to dis- 
parage his progenitors, for whom, in the fifteenth canto 
of the tf Inferno," he seems to claim the glory of having 
been of Roman descent, and fathers of Florence. Cac- 
ciaguida, having married a noble lady of Ferrara, gave 
to one of his sons by her the name of Aldighieri (after- 
wards softened to Alighieri), in honour of his consort. 
This Alighieri was the grandfather of Dante ; and con- 
cerning him,, Cacciaguida, in the last-mentioned canto, 
informs the poet, that, for some unnamed offence, his 
spirit has been more than a hundred years pacing 
round the first circle of the mountain of purgatory; 

" Ben si convien, che la lunga fatica 
Tu gli raccorci con 1' opere tue." 

" And well it would be, were his long fatigue 
Shorten'd by thy good deeds." 

Dante was born in the spring of the year 1265. Ben- 
venuta da Immola calls his father a lawyer ; but little 
more is recorded of him except that he was twice mar- 
ried, and left two sons and a daughter, at an early age, 
to the guardianship of relatives. Dante (abridged from 
Durante) was born of Bella, his father's second wife, of 
whom, during her pregnancy, Boccaccio relates a very 
significant dream, on what authority he does not say, 
and with what truth the reader may judge for himself. 


She imagined herself sitting under the shade of a lofty 
laurel, in the midst of a green meadow, by the side of a 
brilliant fountain. Here she was delivered of a boy, 
who, in as little time as might easily happen in a dream, 
grew up into a man before her eyes, by feeding upon 
the berries that fell from the tree, and drinking of the 
pure stream which watered its roots. Presently he had 
become a shepherd; but, climbing too eagerly up the 
stem to gather some leaves from the laurel, with the 
fruit of which he had been hitherto nourished, he fell 
headlong to the ground, and on rising appeared no longer 
a man, but a magnificent peacock. It would be ag- 
gravating the offence of wasting time by quoting such 
a fable, were we to give the obvious interpretation. 
This, however, the great Boccaccio has done with most 
magniloquent gravity, a task for which, of all men, 
he was no doubt the most competent, as it is probable that 
no soul living (the lady herself not excepted) besides 
himself was in the secret either of the vision or the 
moral. One point of the latter, which could not easily 
be guessed, may be mentioned; namely, that the spots 
on the peacock's tail (the hundred eyes of Argus) fore- 
showed the hundred cantos of the " Divina Commedia." 
The ingenious author of the Decameron may have bor- 
rowed the idea of this dream from Dante's own allusion 
to the laurel and its leaves, the meed of poets and of 
princes, in his preposterous invocation of Apollo at the 
commencement of the " Paradiso." 

Dante himself never alludes to this notable omen, 
though often referring, with conscious pride, to his ge- 
nius, and the circumstances by which it had been awak- 
ened and exercised. This he attributed to tlie benign 
influence of the constellation Gemini, which ruled at his 
nativity. In the " Paradiso," Canto xxii., mentioning 
his flight from the planetary system to the eighth sphere, 
where the fixed stars have their dwelling, he exclaims, 

" O Reader ! as I hope once more to reach 
That realm of holy triumph *, for whose sake 
* The heaven of heavens. 
B 2 


I oft lament my sins and smite my breast, 
Thou could'st not, in so brief a space, through fire 
Have pass'd and pluck'd thy finger, as I saw 
And was within the sign that follows Taurus. 
O glorious stars ! light full of highest virtue ! 
From whence, whate'er it be, my genius sprang, 
With you arose, and set the Sire of life *, 
When first I breathed the Tuscan air. With you 
My lot was cast, when grace was given to mount 
The lofty wheel which guides your revolutions. 
To you, devoutly, my whole soul aspires 
To gather courage for the bold adventure 
That draws me onward tow'rds itself." f 

Brunette Latini (his tutor afterwards) is reported to 
have foretold the boy's illustrious destiny, on due con- 
sultation with the heavenly bodies that presided at his 
birth. Yet, superstitious as Dante appears to have been 
in this respect, in the twentieth canto of the " Inferno" 
he punishes astrologers, and those who presume to pre- 
dict events, by twisting their heads over their shoulders, 
and making those for ever look backward who, too dar- 
ingly, had looked forward into inscrutable futurity. 

" People I saw within that nether glen, 
Silent, and weeping as they went, with slow 
Pace, like the chaunters of our litanies. \ 
As I gazed down on them, the chin of each 
Seem'd marvellously perverted from the chest, 
And from the reins the visage turn'd behind : 

* The sun in the sign of the Twins. 

-} " S' io torni mai, Lettore, a quel devoto 

Trionfo, per lo quale io piango spesso 

Le mie peccata, e '1 petto mi percuoto, 
Tu non avresti in tanto tratto e messo 

Nel fuoco il dito, in quanto io vidi '1 segno, 

Che segue '1 tauro, e fui dentro da esso. 
O gloriose stelle ! O lume pregno 

Di gran virtu, 'dal quale io riconosco 

Tutto (qual che si sia) il mio ingegno ; 
Con voi nasceva, e s'ascendeva vosco 

Quegli, ch' e padre d'ogni mortal vita, 

Quand' io senti' da prima 1'aer Tosco. 
E ppi quando mi fu grazia largita 

D'entrar nell* alta ruota che vi gira, 

X.a vostra region mi fu sortita. 
A voi divotamente ora sospira 

L' anima mia, per aquistar virtute 

Al passo forte che a se la tira." 
t In religious processions on saint-days* 


Wherefore, since none could look before him, all 

Must needs walk backward j so it may have chanced 

To some one palsy-stricken, to be wrench'd 

Thus all awry ; but I have never seen 

Aught like it, nor believe the like hath happened. 

Reader, so help thee Heaven to gather fruit 

From this strange lesson ! think within thyself 

If I could keep my countenance unwet 

When I beheld our image so transposed,. 

That the eyes wept their tears between the shoulders."* 

Though early deprived of his father by death, Dante 
appears to have been well attended to by his relatives and 
guardians, who placed him for education under Brunetto 
Latini and other eminent tutors. He was by them in- 
structed not only in polite letters, but in those liberal ac- 
complishments which became his rank and prospects in 
life. In these he excelled ; yet, while he delighted in 

* This passage i remarkable for having been imitated by Spenser in his 
personification of Forgetfulness : he, however, makes the feet and face at 
variance, which Dante does not, reversing the aspect of the one and the 
motion of the other : 

" But very uncouth sight was to behold 
How he did fashion his untoward pace ; 
For as he forward moved his footing old, 
To backward still was turn'd his wrinkled face, 
Unlike to men, who, ever as they trace 
Both feet and face one way are wont to lead." 

Faerie Queene, book I canto viiL sL31. 

The latter clause of Dante's lines has been remembered by Mil ton : 

" Sight so deform, what heart of man could long 
Dry-eyed behold ? Adam could not, but wept" 

Paradise Lust, book XL ver. 495. 

" E vidi gente per lo vallon tondo 
Venir, tacendo e lagrimando, al passo 
Che fanno le letane in questo mondo. 

Come '1 viso mi scese in lor pid basso, 
Mirabilmente apparve esser travolto 
Ciascim dal mento al principio del casso : 

Che dalle reni era tomato il volto, 
Ed indietro venir li convenia, 
Perchfe 1 veder dinanzi era lor tolto. 

Forse per forza gia di parlasia 
Si travolse cosi alcun del tutto : 
Ma io nol vidi, ne credo che sia. 

Se Dio ti laaci, letter, prender frutto 
Di tua lezione, or pensa per te stesso 
Com' io potea toner lo viso asciutto, 

Quando la nostra imagine da presso 
Vidi si torta, che '1 pianto degli occhi 
Le natiche bagnava per lo fesso." 
B 3 


horsemanship, falconry, and all the manly as well as mi- 
litary exercises practised by persons of distinction in those 
days, he was, at the same time, so diligent a scholar, 
that he readily made himself master of all the crude 
learning then in vogue. It is stated by Pelli that, while 
yet a boy, he entered upon his noviciate at a convent of 
the Minor Friars. But his mind was too active and 
enterprising to enslave itself to dulness in any form ; and 
he withdrew before the term of probation was ended. 

According to Boccaccio, before he could be either 
student, sportsman, soldier, or monk, he became a lover; 
and a lover thenceforward to the end of his life he ap- 
pears to have remained, with a passion so pure and 
unearthly, that it has been gravely questioned whether 
his mistress were a real or an imaginary being. The 
former, however, happening to be quite as probable as 
the latter, all true youths and maidens will naturally 
choose to believe that which is most pleasant, and give 
the credence of the heart to every eulogium which the 
poet, throughout his works, has lavished upon his 
Beatrice, whatever greybeards may think of the fol- 
lowing story: One fine May-day, when, according to 
the custom of the country, parties of both sexes used to 
meet in family circles, and, under the roofs of common 
friends, rejoice on the return of the genial season, Folco 
Portinari, a Florentine of no mean parentage, had invited 
a great number of neighbours to partake of his hospitality. 
As it was common on such occasions for children to ac- 
company their relatives, Dante Alighieri, then in his 
ninth year, had the good fortune to be present ; where, 
mingling with many other young folks, in their after- 
noon sports, he singled out, with the second sight of the 
future poet, that one whom his verse was destined to 
eternise. The little lady, a year younger than himself, 
was Sice (the familiar abbreviation of Beatrice), daugh- 
ter of the gentleman at whose house the festivities 
were held. She need not be pictured here ; for pre- 
mature as such a fit must have been, every one who 
remembers a first love, at any age, will know how she 


looked, how she spoke, how she stepped, and how her 
hero felt, growing at every instant greater and better, 
and braver in his own esteem, that he might become 
worthy of hers : suffice it to say, from Boccaccio, that 
Dante, though but a boy, received her beautiful image 
into his heart with such fondness of affection, that, from 
that day, it never departed thence. 

In his ff Vita Nuova" (a romantic and sentimental 
retrospect of his youth), he has himself described his 
raptures and his agonies in the commencement and 
progress of this passion ; which was not extinguished^ 
but refined ; not buried with her body, but translated 
with its object, (her soul,) when Beatrice died, in 12QO, 
at the age of twenty-four years. Judging from the 
general tenour of his poetry, of which his mistress 
was at once the inspirer and the theme, it must be 
presumed that the lady returned his noble attachment 
with corresponding tenderness and delicacy ; though 
why they were not united by marriage has never been 
told. He intimates, indeed, that it was long before 
he could learn, by any token from herself, that his 
faithful passion was not hopeless. As usual in cases of 
this kind, a most unpoetical accident has been ill- 
naturedly interposed, by truth or tradition, to spoil a 
charm almost too exquisite to be more than a charm 
which the breath of five words might break. On the 
evidence of a marriage certificate, which Time unluckily 
dropped in his flight, and some poring antiquary picked 
up a century or two afterwards, it seems as though 
Beatrice became the wife of a cavalier de Bardi. Dante 
himself, however (who pretends to no bosom-secrets too 
dark to be uttered), never alludes to such a blight of his 
prospects on this side of that threefold world which he 
was afterwards privileged to explore, at her spontaneous 
intercession, that he might be purged from every baser 
flame than entire affection to herself, while she gave him 
in the eighth heaven a heart divided only with her 
God. After her decease, he intimates that he was 
tempted to infidelity to her memory (in which she was 


the bride of his soul), by the appearance at a window of 
a lady who so much resembled his " late deceased 
saint," that he almost forgot her in retracing her own 
loveliness in the features of this new apparition. His 
tears flowed freely at the sight; and he felt comforted by 
the sympathy of the beautiful stranger in his sufferings. 
But when, after a little while, he found love to the living 
symbol growing up like a serpent among the flowers, he 
fled in terror from it, before the gaze which had gained 
such power over his senses had irrevocably fascinated 
him to destruction ; and he bewailed, in the most hu- 
miliating terms, the frailty of his heart and the wan- 
dering of his eyes. It is, moreover, the glory of his 
great work that the posthumous affection of Beatrice 
herself is represented as having so troubled her spirit, 
that, even amidst the blessedness of Paradise, she devised 
means whereby her lover might be reclaimed from the 
irregularities into which he had fallen after her re- 
straining presence had been withdrawn from him on 
earth, and that he might be prepared, by visions of the 
eternal world, for future and everlasting companionship 
with her in heaven. 

Dante, as he grew up to manhood, and for several 
years afterwards, continued successfully to pursue his 
studies in the universities of Padua, Bologna, and Paris. 
In the latter city he is said to have held various theo- 
logical disputations, alike creditable to his learning, elo- 
quence, and acuteness ; though, from the failure of 
pecuniary means, he could not remain long enough there 
to obtain academical honours. On the authority of 
Giovanni da Serraville, bishop of Fermo, it has been 
believed that he also visited Oxford, where, as elsewhere, 
his different exercises gained him, according to the re- 
spective tastes of his admirers, from some the praise 
of being a great philosopher, from others a great divine, 
and, from the rest, a great poet. Serraville, at the 
request of cardinal Saluzzo and two English bishops, 
(Nicholas Bubwith, of Bath, and Robert Halam, of 
Salisbury,) whom he met at the council of Constance, 


translated Dante's " Divina Commedia" into Latin 
prose; of which one manuscript copy only, with a com- 
mentary annexed, is known to be in existence, in the 
Vatican library. The extraordinary interest which the 
two English prelates took in Dante's poem may be re- 
garded as indirect, though of course very indecisive, 
evidence of his having been personally known at our 
famous university, and having been honourably re- 
membered there. It is, however, certain that, soon after 
his decease, the ft Divina Comraedia " was in high 
repute among the few in this country who, during the 
reigns of Edward III. and Richard II., in a chivalrous 
age, cultivated polite letters. This is apparent from the 
numerous imitations of passages in it by Chaucer, who 
was then attempting to do for England what his mag- 
nificent prototype had recently done for Italy. 

Uncertain as the traditions concerning this portion of 
Dante's life (and indeed of every other) may be, there 
is no doubt that he became early and intimately ac- 
quainted with the reliques of all the Roman writers then 
known in Italy. Among these, Virgil, Ovid, and 
Statius were his favourites, and naturally so, as excelling 
(each according to his peculiar genius) in marvellous and 
beautiful narrative, to which their youthful admirer's 
own sublime and daring genius intuitively led him. At 
the same time, he not less courageously and patiently 
groped his way through the labyrinths of school di- 
vinity, and the dark caverns of what was then deemed 
philosophy, under the bewildering guidance of Duns 
Scotus and Thomas Aquinas. Full proof of the im- 
provement which he made, both under classical and po- 
lemical tutors and prototypes, may be traced in all his 
compositions, prose as well as verse, from the earliest to 
the last : yet, that which was his own, it must be ac- 
knowledged, is ever the best; and if, in addition to a 
large proportion of this, there had not been a savour of 
originality communicated to every thing which he bor- 
rowed or had been taught, his works must have perished 
with those of his contemporaries, who are now either 


nameless, or survive only as names in the titles of unread 
and unreadable volume;?. 

During this season of seed time for the mind, we are 
told that, notwithstanding his indefatigable labours in 
the acquirement and cultivation of knowledge, he ap- 
peared so cheerful, frank, and generous in deport- 
ment and disposition, that nobody would have imagined 
him to be such a devoteejo literature in the stillness of 
the closet, or the open field of college exercises. On 
the contrary, he passed in public for a gallant and high- 
bred man of the world ; following its customs and 
fashions, so far as might be deemed consistent in a per- 
son of honour, and independence, qualities on which 
he sufficiently prided himself ; for which, also, in after 
life, he dearly paid the price, and paid it, like Aristides, 
by banishment. 

But Beatrice dying in 1290*, her lover is reported to 
have fallen into such a state of despondency, that his- 
friends, fearing the most frightful effects upon his 
reason not less than upon his health, persuaded him, as 
a last resource, to marry. Accordingly he took to wife 
Madonna Gemma, of the house of Donati ; one of the 
most powerful families of Tuscany, and unhappily one 
of the most turbulent where few could be called pacific. 
By her he had five sons and a daughter. Her husband's 
biographers (with few exceptions) have conspired to 
darken this lady's memory with the stigma of being an 
insufferable shrew, who rendered his life a martyrdom by 
domestic discomforts. Aline in the " Inferno," Cantoxvi., 
in which one of the lost spirits, Jacopo Rusticci, says, 

" La fiera moglie, piu ch* altro, mi nuoce," 

" More than aught else, my furious wife annoys me," 

has often been quoted as referring, with indirect bitter- 
ness, to his own miserable union with a firebrand of a 

* According to his own intimation in the Purgatorio, canto xxxii. ver. 2., 
where he speaks of his " eyes " being eager to relieve themselves of their 
" ten years' thirst," on her spiritual appearance to him ; the date of the 
visions being A. D. 1300, and the descent into the lower regions represented 
us having been made on Good Friday, 1266 years after the death of Christ. 
Ir^ferno, canto xxi. 



woman : yet, in no passage throughout the whole of his 
long poem, does Dante cast the slightest shade upon her 
character; though, with the frankness of honest cen- 
sure or undisguised resentment, he spares nobody else, 
friend or foe, in the distribution of v/hat he deemed 
impartial justice. One thing is exceedingly in favour 
of his own amiable and affectionate nature, in the 
nearest connections of life : whenever he mentions 
children in his similes (and he mentions them often), it 
is always with exquisite delicacy or endearing playful- 
ness ; while, in the tenderest tones, he descants on their 
beauty, their innocence, their sports, and their suffer- 
ings. Mothers, too, are among the loveliest objects 
which he presents in those sweet interludes of real life 
which he delights to bring in, and does so with consum- 
mate address, to relieve the horrors of the infernal pit, 
the wearying pains of purgatory, and the insufferable 
glories of Paradise. Concerning Dante's wife it may 
therefore be fairly presumed, that she was less of either 
termagant or tormentor than has been generally imagined 
by his over- zealous editors. The petulance of Boccaccio 
and the gravity of Aretino (two of his earliest biogra- 
phers) on this subject are ludicrously contrasted. The 
former affects to be quite shocked at the idea of the 
sublime and contemplative poet being forced to lead the 
dull household life of other men, and submit to certain 
petty annoyances of daily occurrence. On these he 
expatiates most pathetically, as things which might have 
been, though he fairly acknowledges that he does not 
know that any of them were, the causes of long un- 
happiness and final separation between the parties. Are- 
tino, on the other hand, in sober sadness (without any 
reference to the ill qualities of either), justifies Dante 
for condescending to be married, on the ground that 
many illustrious philosophers, including Socrates, the 
greatest of all, were husbands and fathers, and held 
offices of state, in perfect compatibility with their intel- 
lectual pursuits ! 

It should not be overlooked, in mitigation of her occa- 


sional asperities, that, Madonna Gemma being the near 
kinswoman of Corso Donati, Dante's most formidable and 
inveterate rival in the party feuds of Florence, some drops 
of the gall of political rancour may have been infused 
into the matrimonial cup. The poet's known and avowed 
passion for Beatrice, living and dead, was alone sufficient 
to afflict a high-minded woman with the rankling con- 
sciousness that she had not all her husband's heart. It is, 
moreover, no small proof of her submission to his will 
and pleasure, that their only daughter bore the name of 
his first last only love, if we are to believe all the pro- 
testations of his verse. Be these things as they may, 
it must be concluded that he was coupled with a most 
unpoetical yoke-mate; and she with a lord and master 
not easy to be ruled by her or any body else. It has 
been loosely stated that ec the poet, not possessing the 
patience of Socrates, separated himself from his wife, 
with such vehement expressions of dislike that he never 
afterwards allowed her to sit down in his presence." 
When this happened if it ever so happened does 
not appear ; nothing further seems certain, except that 
she did not follow her husband into exile : but Boccaccio 
himself acknowledges, that after that event, having 
secured (not without difficulty) a small portion of his 
effects from confiscation as her dower, she preserved 
herself and their little children from the wretchedness of 
absolute poverty, by such expedients of industry and 
economy as she had never before been accustomed to 

It has been already intimated, that, though in all the 
logomachies of the schools Dante was an eager and 
skilful disputant, yet he was left behind by none of his 
contemporaries in those personal accomplishments which 
became his station. In the mean while he cultivated 
with constitutional ardour and diligence those higher 
qualifications, which, in the sequel, enabled him to serve 
his country as a citizen, a soldier, and a magistrate, 
under circumstances that called forth all his talents, 
valour, firmness, wisdom, and discretion ; though, judg- 


ing from the issue, the latter failed him oftener than the 
former. Eloquent, brave, and resolute he always was ; 
but not always wise and discreet. This, indeed, might 
be presumed; for in the pursuit of distinction, instead 
of attaching himself to the selfish and mercenary pro- 
fessions which oftenest lead to wealth, power, and 
family aggrandisement, he preferred those generous 
studies which most exalt, enrich, and adorn the mind, 
but yet, while they gratify the taste of their votary, 
rather advance him in moral and intellectual eminence 
than to temporal and substantial prosperity. These, there- 
fore, were exercises calculated to awaken and display 
the energies and resources of a temper formed to con- 
ceive, attempt, and achieve great things, so far and 
perhaps so far only as depended on his individual 
exertions. In the solitary case wherein he had official 
authority to direct difficult public affairs he failed so 
irrecoverably, that, during the residue of his life, he was 
more a sufferer than an actor in the troubles of those 
hideous times. 

Italy, it must be observed, was still distracted with 
strife, in every form that strife could assume, between 
the factions of the Guelfs and Ghibelines ; the former, 
adherents of the pope; the latter, of the emperor of 
Germany. These factions not only arrayed state against 
state, but frequently divided people of the same pro- 
vince, the same city, and the same family against one 
another,, in the most violent and implacable hostility, 
hostility, violent in proportion as it was irrational, 
and implacable in proportion as it was unnatural ; being, 
in every instance, and on both sides, contrary to the 
interests of their respective communities. Lombardy, 
especially since the Cisalpine conquests of Charlemagne, 
had never ceased to be a snare to his successors. The 
popes, who at first had affected spiritual dominion only, 
after the grant of territorial possessions, by that deed of 
Constantine to Silvester, which, having disappeared from 
earth, may be found, according to the veritable testi- 
mony of Ariosto, in the moon, the receptacle of all lost 


things *, gradually aspired to secular power. But all 
their ambition and influence failed, in the end, to spread 
their secular sovereignty beyond those provinces adja- 
cent to Rome, which they yet retain by courtesy of the 
cathoh'c potentates of Europe. 

At the time of Dante's birth, the Guelf or papal party 
had recently recovered their ascendancy at Florence, 
after having been expatriated for several years, in con- 
sequence of their disastrous overthrow at the battle of 
Monte Aperto. The poet was therefore educated in 
Guelfic principles, and adhered to them till his banish- 
ment, when the perfidious interference of the pope with 
the independence of his native city, and the atrocious 
hostility of its citizens against himself and his friends, 
compelled him to take part with the imperialists. 

The first public character in which we find the pa- 
triotic poet distinguishing himself was that of a soldier. 
In one of the petty wars that were perpetually occurring 
between the little irascible republics in the north of 
Italy, the Florentines gained a decisive victory over 
their neighbours of Arezzo (who had harboured the 
Ghibelline refugees), at the battle of Campaldino, A. D. 
1289- On this occasion, Dante, who served among the 
cavalry, was not only exposed to imminent peril at the 
commencement of the action, when that body was par- 
tially routed by the impetuosity of the enemy's charge, 

* " Di varii fiori ad un gran monte p'assa, 

Ch' ebber gik buono odore, or puzzan forte, 
Questo era il dono (se perb dir lece,) 
Che Constantino al buon Silvestro fece." 

Orlando Furioso, canto xxxiv. 
Thus translated by Milton : 

" Then pass'd he to a flowery mountain green, 
Which once smelt sweet, now stinks as odiously 
This was that gift (if you the truth will have) 
That Constantine to good Silvester gave." 

Dante alludes, with bitterness, to the same unhappy gift, in three lines, 
which Milton has also translated with more faithfulness than felicity : 

" Ahi ! Constantin, di quanto mal fu matre, 
Non la tua conversion, ma quella dote, 

Che da te prese il primo ricco patre." DelV Inferno, canto xix. 
" Ah Constantine! of how much ill was cause 
Not thy conversion, but those rich domains, 
\Vhich the first wealthy pope receiv'd of thee." 


but when the squadron had rallied again on reaching the 
lines of infantry, and thence returned to the attack, he 
fought in the first rank, and displayed such extraordinary 
valour, as to claim a proud share in the glory of that 
day. To this conflict, and the particular service in 
which he had heen engaged, he seems to allude in Canto 
XXII. of the Inferno. Having mentioned the signal 
given hy Barbariccia (serjeant of a file of demons, ap- 
pointed to escort Dante and Virgil over a certain dan- 
gerous pass on their journey,) a signal too absurd to 
be repeated here, either in English or Italian, he 
says : 

" I have seen cavalry upon their march, 
Rush to the combat, rally on the field, 
And sometimes seek for safety in retreat : 
I have seen jousts and tournaments array'd ; 
Seen clouds of skirmishers sweep through your fields, 
Ye Aretines ! and spoilers, lay them waste ; 
Drum, cymbal, trumpet, beacon from tower-top, 
And other strange or native things their signals ; 
But never, at the blast of instrument 
So barbarous have witness'd horse or foot, 
Or ship, by star or landmark, put in motion : 
With those ten demons thus we took our way ; 
Fell company ! but, as the proverb saith, 
At church with saints, with gluttons in the tavern." * 

In the following year Dante was again in the 
field, at the siege of Caprona. To this he alludes in 
Canto XXI. of the Inferno, where, under convoy of the 
aforementioned fiends, he compares his fears lest they 

* " I* vidi gia cavalier muover campo, 

E comminciare stonno, e far lor mostra, 

E tal volta partir per loro scampo : 
Corridor vidi per la terra vostra, 

O Aretini ! e vidi gir gualdane, 

Ferir torneamenti, e correr giostra, 
Ouando con trombe, e quando con campane, 

Con tamburi, e con cenni di castella, 

E con cose nostrali, e con istrane : 
Ne gi con si diversa cenr.amella, 

Cavalier vidi muover, ne pedoni, 

Ne nave a segno di terra, o di Stella. 
Noi andavara con li dieci demon! ; 

Ah ! tiera compa^nia ! ma nella chieja 

Co' Santi, e in taverna co' ghiottonl" 


should break truce with him and his companion, to 
the apprehensions of the garrison of that fortress when 
they marched out on condition of heing permitted to 
depart unmolested with their arms and property j but 
were so terrified, on seeing the multitude and the rage 
of their enemies, who cried, ' ' Stop them ! stop them ! 
kill them ! kill them ! " as they passed along, that they 
submitted to be sent in irons, as prisoners, to Lucca, for 

" Wherefore I moved right on towards my guide, 
The devils marshalling themselves before, 
For much I fear'd lest they should not keep faith : 
So saw I once Caprona's garrison 
Come trembling forth, upon capitulation, 
To find themselves among so many foes. 
I crouch'd with my whole frame beside my master, 
Nor could I turn mine eyes away from watching 
Their physiognomy, which was not good." * 

During this active period of his citizenship, Dante 
is stated to have been frequently employed on important 
embassies ; and, among others, to the kings of Naples, 
Hungary, and France; in all of which his eloquence 
and address enabled him to acquit himself with honour 
and advantage to his country : but as there is no allusion 
in any of his works, even to the most distinguished of 
these, it is very questionable whether the traditions are 
not, in many cases, wholly unwarranted ; and probably 
founded upon misapprehension of the verbiage and 
bombast of Boccaccio, in his account of the political, 
philosophical, and literary labours of his hero. 

In the year 1300, Dante was chosen, by the suffrages 
of the people, chief prior of his native city ; and from 
that era of his arrival at the highest honour to which 

* " Perch' i' mi mossi, e a lui venni ratto : 
E i diavoli si fecer tutti avanti, 
Si ch' io temetti non tenesser patto. 
E cosi vid' io gia temer li fanti, 
Ch' uscivan pattegiati di Caprona, 
Veggendo se tra nemici cotanti. 
I' m'accostai con tutta la persona 
Lungo '1 mio duca, e non torceva gli occhi 
IJullu sembianza lor, ch'era non buona." 


his ambition could aspire, he himself dated all the mi- 
series which (like the file of evil spirits above men- 
tioned) accompanied him thenceforward to the end of 
his life. In one of his epistles, quoted by Aretino, he 
says, " All my calamities had their origin and occasion 
in my unhappy priorship, of which, though I might 
not for my wisdom have been worthy, yet on the ground 
of age and fidelity was I not unworthy; ten years 
having elapsed since the battle of Campaldino, in which 
the Ghibelline party was routed and nearly exter- 
minated; wherein, also, I proved myself no novice in 
arms, but experienced great perils in the various fortunes 
of the fight, and the highest gratification in the issue of 
it." Since that triumph, the Guelfs had maintained 
undisputed predominance in Tuscany ; but the citizens 
of Florence split into two minor factions as bitterly 
opposed to each other as the Guelfs and Ghibellines. 

The following circumstance (considerably varied in 
particulars by different narrators) has been men- 
tioned as the origin of this schism : Two branches of 
the family of Cancellieri divided the patronage of Pis- 
toia, which was then subject to Florence, between them. 
The heads of these were Gulielmo and Bertaccio. In 
playing at snow -balls, a son of the first happened to 
give the son of the second a black eye. Gulielmo, 
knowing the savage disposition of his kinsman, imme- 
diately sent his son to offer submission for the unlucky 
hit. Bertaccio, eager to avail himself of a pretext for 
quarrelling with the rival section of his house, seized 
the boy, and chopped off the hand which flung the snow- 
ball, drily observing, that blows could only be compen- 
sated by blows not with words. Another version of 
the story is, that the young gentlemen, quarrelling over 
some game, drew their swords, when one wounded the 
other in the face; in retribution for which, Foccacio, 
brother to the latter, cut off his offending cousin's 
hand. The father of the mutilated lad immediately 
called upon his friends to avenge the inhuman outrage ; 
Bertaccio's dependants not less promptly armed them- 

VOL. i. c 


selves to maintain his cause ; and a civil war was ready 
to break out in the heart of the city. An ancestor 
of the Cancellieri family having married a lady named 
Bianchi, in honour of her one of the parties took the 
denomination of Bianchi (whites), when the other, in 
defiance, assumed the reverse, and styled themselves 
Neri (blacks). 

. This happened during the priorship of Dante, who, 
with the approbation of his colleagues, summoned the 
leaders of the antagonist factions to repair to Florence, 
to prevent that extremity of violence with which they 
threatened not Pistoia only, but the whole commonwealth. 
This, as Leonardo Bruni observes, was importing the 
plague to the capital, instead of taking means to repress 
it upon the spot where it had already appeared. For it 
so fell out, that Florence itself was principally under 
the influence of two great families, the Cerchi and the 
Donati, habitually jealous of one another, and each 
watching for opportunity to obtain the ascendancy. 
When, therefore, the hostages for preserving the peace of 
Pistoia arrived, the Bianchi were hospitably entertained 
by the Cerchi, and the Neri by the Donati ; the natural 
consequence of which was, that the people of Florence 
were far more annoyed by the acquisition, than those of 
the neighbouring city were benefited by the riddance of 
so troublesome a crew. What these incendiary spirits had 
been doing in a small place, on a small scale, they forth- 
with began to do on a large scale, in a large place. 
Jealousies, fears, and antipathies were easily awakened 
among the families with which the partisans respectively 
associated. From these, through every rank of citizens 
down to the lowest, the contagion spread ; first seizing 
the youth, who were sanguine and restless, but soon 
infecting persons of all ages; till every man who had a 
mind or an arm to influence or to act, enlisted himself 
with one side or the other. In the course of a few 
months, from whisperings the discontents rose to cla- 
mours, from words to blows, and from feuds in private 
dwellings to battles in the streets ; so that not the me- 


tropolis only, but the whole territory, became involved in 
unnatural contention. 

While this was in process, the heads of the Neri held 
a meeting by night in the church of the Holy Trinity, at 
which a plan was suggested to induce pope Boniface VIII. 
to constitute Charles of Valois, (who was brother to 
Philip the Fair, king of France, and then commanded 
an army under his holiness against the emperor,) me- 
diator of differences and reformer-general of abuses 
in the state. The Bianchi, having received information 
of this clandestine assembly, and the unpatriotic project 
which had been devised at it, took grievous umbrage, and 
went in a body, with arms in their hands, to the chief 
prior, with whom they remonstrated sharply upon what 
they deemed a privy conspiracy hatched for the purpose 
of expelling themselves and their friends from the city; 
at the same time demanding summary punishment on 
the offenders. The Neri, alarmed in their turn, flew 
likewise to arms, and assailed the prior with the same 
complaint and demand reversed, namely, that their 
adversaries had plotted to drive them (the Neri) into 
exile under false pretences; and requiring that they (the 
Bianchi) should be sent into banishment, to preserve 
the public tranquillity. 

The danger was imminent, and prompt decision to 
avert it indispensable. The prior and magistrates, there- 
fore, by the advice of Dante their chief, who was the 
Cicero in this double conspiracy, though neither so 
politic nor so fortunate as his eloquent archetype, 
appealed to the people at large to support the executive 
government ; and, having conciliated their favour, ba- 
nished the principal instigators of tumult on both sides, 
including Corso Donati (Dante's wife's kinsman) of the 
Neri party, who, with his accomplices, was confined in 
the castle of Pieve in Perugia ; while Guido Cavalcanti 
(Dante's own particular friend) and others of the Bianchi 
faction were sent to Serrazana. 

This disturbance, and the severe remedy necessary to 
be adopted, painfully tried the best feelings of Dante, 
c 2 


who seems to have acted on truly independent principles 
in the affair, though suspected at the time of favouring 
the Bianchi. That, indeed, was prohahle ; for though as 
chief magistrate he knew no man by his colours, yet, 
being a genuine Florentine, and such he remained 
when Florence had banished and proscribed him, he 
could not but be opposed to so preposterous a scheme as 
that of bringing in a stranger to lord it over his native 
city, under pretence of assuaging the animosities of 
malecontents, who cared for nothing but their own per- 
sonal, family, or party aggrandisement, at the expense 
of the common weal. 

This apparent impartiality was openly arraigned, when 
the Bianchi exiles were permitted to come back after a 
short absence, while the Neri remained under proscrip- 
tion. Dante vindicated himself by saying, that he had 
attached himself to neither party ; that in condemning the 
heads of both he had acted solely for the public safety ; 
and at home had used his utmost endeavours to reconcile 
the adverse families, who had implicated all their fellow- 
citizens in their feuds. With respect to the return of 
the Bianchi, he denied that it had been allowed on his 
authority, his priorate having expired before that event 
took place ; and, moreover, that their release had been 
rendered necessary by the premature death of Guido 
Cavalcanti, who had been killed by the pestilent air of 
Serrazana. The pope, however, eagerly availed himself 
of the opportunity as a plea for sending Charles of Valois 
to Florence, to restore tranquillity by conciliation. That 
prince accordingly entered the city in triumph at the 
head of his troops, with a solemn assurance that liberty, 
property, and personal safety should in no instance be 
violated. \ In consequence of this he was well received by 
the people; but he had no sooner seated himself in in- 
fluence than he obtained the recall of the Neri, who were 
his partisans. Then, having secured his authority by 
their presence, he threw off the mask, and began to play 
the part of dictator within the walls, as well as throughout 


the adjacent territory, by causing 600 of the principal 
men of the Bianchi to be driven forth into exile. 

At the time of this expatriation of his friends, Dante 
was absent, having undertaken an embassy to Rome to 
solicit the good offices of the pope towards pacifying his 
fellow- citizens without foreign interference. Boccaccio 
records a singular specimen at once of his self-confidence, 
and his disparagement of others, which, if true, betrays 
the most un amiable feature of his character, and throws 
additional light on a circumstance not otherwise^ well 
accounted for, why, with all his admirable qualities, 
Dante was unhappy in domestic life, and in public life 
made so many and such inveterate enemies. When his 
associates in the government proposed this embassy to 
him, he haughtily enquired, " If I go, who will stay? 
If I stay, who will go ? " It was fortunate for the poet 
that his holiness and himself, on this occasion, were un- 
consciously playing at cross purposes, though he was 
beaten in the game, the very intervention which he 
had gone to deprecate taking place whilst he was on the 
journey. Had he been at home, it is not improbable 
that death, rather than banishment with the Bianchi, 
would have been his lot, from the exasperation of the 
Neri against him individually, whom they regarded as 
the chief agent in their disgrace and exile, as well as the 
patron of their rivals. It is remarkable that the pretext 
on which the failing party were now expelled was, that 
they had secretly intrigued with Pietro Ferranti, the 
confidant of Charles of Valois, to give him the castle of 
Prato, on condition that he prevailed upon his master 
to allow them the ascendancy under him in Florence. 
Charles himself countenanced the accusation, and af- 
fected high displeasure at the insulting offer, as dero- 
gatory to his immaculate purity; though the purport of 
it was no other than to concede to him the express object 
of his ambition, if he would grant to the Bianchi faction 
what he did grant to the perfidious Neri. A document 
was long preserved as the genuine letter to Ferranti, 
with the seals and signatures of the principal Bianchi 
o 3 


attached, containing the traitorous proposal ; but Leo- 
nardo Aretino, who had himself seen it in the public 
archives, declares his perfect conviction that it was a 

Of participation in such' baseness (had his partisans 
been really guilty of it), Dante must stand clearly ac- 
quitted by every one who takes his character from the 
matter-of-fact statements, perverted as they are, of his 
adversaries themselves, much more from the unim- 
peachable evidence of his own writings ; open, un- 
daunted, high-spirited, and generous as a friend, he was 
not less violent, acrimonious, and undisguisedly vindictive 
as an enemy. So exasperated, however, were the Neri 
against him, that they demolished his dwelling, confis- 
cated his property, and decreed a fine of 8000 lire 
against him, with banishment for two years ; not for 
any crime of which he had been convicted, but under 
pretence of contumacy, because he did not appear to a 
citation which had been issued when they knew him to 
be absent, absent, it might be said, on their own bu- 
siness (his mission to Rome), where he could not be 
aware of the nature of his imputed offence till he heard 
of the condign punishment with which it had been thus 
prematurely visited. In the course of a few weeks a 
further inculpation of Dante and his associates was pro- 
mulged, under which they were condemned to perpetual 
exile, with the merciless provision that, if any of them 
thereafter fell into the hands of their persecutors, they 
should be burnt ah've. And this execrable measure 
seems to have been determined upon before the exiled 
party had made any attempt, by force of arms, to re- 
enter Florence. 

When Dante was informed at Rome of the revolution 
in Florence, he hastened to Siena, where, learning the 
full extent of his misfortune, he was driven, it may be 
said, by necessity to join himself to his homeless coun- 
trymen in that neighbourhood, who were concerting 
(though with little of mutual confidence, and miserably 
inadequate means) how they might compel their fellow- 


citizens to receive them back. Arezzo, the city of the 
Aretines (with whom Dante had combated at Campal- 
dino), afforded them an asylum, and became the head- 
quarters of the Bianchi ; who thenceforward, from 
being, like the Neri, Guelfs, transferred their affections, 
or rather their wrongs and their vengeance, to the Ghibel- 
lines ; deeming the adherents of the emperor less the ene- 
mies of their country than their adversaries were. Their 
affairs were managed by a council of twelve, of whom 
Dante was one. Great numbers of malecontents from 
Bologna, Pistoia, and the adjacent provinces of North- 
ern Italy, gradually flocking to their standard, in 
the course of two years they were sufficiently strong 
to take the field with a force of cavalry and foot ex- 
ceeding 10,000, under count Alessandro da Romena, and 
to commence active hostilities. By a bold and sudden 
march, they attempted to surprise Florence itself, and 
were so far successful that their advanced guard got pos- 
session of one of the gates ; but the main body being 
attacked and defeated on the outside of the walls, the 
former gallant corps was overpowered by the garrison; 
and the enterprise itself, after the campaign of a few 
days, was abandoned altogether. Dante, according 
to general belief, accompanied this unfortunate expe- 
dition ; and so did Pietro Petracco, the father of the 
celebrated Petrarca (Petrarch), who had been expelled 
with the Bianchi from Florence ; and it is stated, that 
on the very night on which the army of the exiles marched 
against the city, Petracco's wife Eletta gave birth to the 
poet who was to succeed Dante as the glory of his coun- 
try's literature. 

After this miscarriage Dante quitted the confederacy, 
disgusted by the bickerings, jealousies, and bad faith of 
the heterogeneous and unmanageable multitude, which 
common calamities had driven together, but could not 
cement by common interests. The poet refers to this 
motley and discordant crew in the latter lines of the ce- 
lebrated passage, in which he represents his ancestor, 
Cacciaguida, as prophesying his future banishment with 
c 4 


the miseries and mortifications which he should suffer 
from the ingratitude of his countrymen : 

" For thou must leave behind thee every thing 

Thine heart holds dearest This will be the first 

Shaft which the bow of exile shoots against thee : 

And thou must prove how salt the bread that's eaten 

At others' tables, and how hard the path 

To climb and to go down a stranger's stairs : 

But what shall weigh the heaviest on thy shoulders, 

Will be the base and evil company 

With which thy lot hath cast thee in that valley ; 

For every thankless, lawless, reckless wretch 

Shall turn against thee : yet confusion, soon, 

Of face shall cover them, not thee, with blushes ; 

Their brutishness will be so manifest, 

That to have stood alone will be thy glory."* 

Del Paradiso, xvii 

To the personal humiliations of which he chewed the 
cud in bitter secrecy, through years of heart-breaking 
dependence on the precarious bounty of others, there is 
a striking but forced allusion at the close of the eleventh 
canto of the " Purgatorio." Dante enquires concerning 
a proud spirit bent double under a huge burden of stones, 
which he is condemned to carry for as many years as he 
had lived, till he shall be sufficiently humbled to pass 
muster through the flames into Paradise. This is Pro- 
venzano Salvani, who for his acts of outrageous tyranny 
would have been doomed to a much harder penance, but 
for one good deed. A friend of his being kept prisoner 

* " Tu lascerai ogni cosa diletta 

Piii caramente ; e questo fc quello strale, 

Che 1'arco dell' esilio pria saetta. 
Tn proverai & come sa di sale 

Lo pane altrui, e com'e duro calle 

Lo scendere, e '1 salir JUT 1 'altrui scale. 
E quel, che piil ti gravera le spalle, 

Sara la carnpagnia malvagia e scempia, 

Con la qual tu cadrai in questa valle : 
Che tutta ingrata, tutta matta ed empia 

Si fara contra te : ma poco appresso 

Ella, non tu, n'avr& rossa la tempia. 
Di sua bestialitate il suo processo 

Far la pruova, si ch' a te fia bello 

Avert! fatta parte per te stesso." 


by Charles of Anjou, and threatened with death unless 
a ransom of 10,000 golden florins were paid for his free- 
dom, Salvani so far degraded himself as to stand (to kneel, 
say some,) in the, public market-place of Siena, with a 
carpet spread on the ground before him, imploring, with 
the cries and importunity of a common beggar,, the 
charitable contributions of every passenger towards 
raising the required sum. This he accomplished, and 
his friend was saved. 

" ' He in his height of glory,' said the other, 

Casting aside all shame, spontaneously, 

Stood in the market of Siena, begging j 

He, to redeem his friend from infamy 

And death, in Charles's dungeons, did what made him 

Tremble through every vein. No more ; my speech 

Is dark ; thy countrymen, ere long, will do 

That which will help thee to interpret it." * 

In despair of being able to force his way, sword in 
hand, back to Florence, Dante next endeavoured, by 
supplicating the good offices of individuals connected 
with the government, by expostulatory addresses to the 
people, and even by appeals to foreign princes, to obtain 
a reversal of his unrighteous sentence. Disappointment, 
however, followed upon disappointment, till, hope de- 
ferred having made the heart sick, he grew so impatient 
under the sense of wrong and ignominy, that he again 
had recourse to the summary but perilous redress of 
violence; not indeed by force which he could com- 
mand, though one in a million for energy, courage, and 
perseverance ; but a powerful auxiliary having ap- 
peared in 1308, he gave up his whole soul to the main 
object of his desire at this time, the chastisement of his 
inexorable fellow-citizens. Henry of Luxembourg, having 

* " Quando vivea pito glorioso, disse, 

Liberamente nel campo di Siena, 

Ogni vergogna deposta, s'affisse : 
Egli, per trar 1'amico suo di pena, 

Che sostenea nella prigion di Carlo, 

Si condusse a tremar per ogni vena. 
Piu non dirb, e scuro so che parlo ; 

Ma poco tempo andi a, che i tuoi vicini 

Faranno si che tu potrai chiosarlo." 


been raised to the throne of Germany, eagerly engaged, 
like his predecessors, in the delusive contest for the 
"iron crown" of Italy, though " Luke's iron crown"* 
(placed red hot on the brow of an unsuccessful aspirant 
to that of Hungary) was hardly more painful or more 
certainly fatal than this, except that it was far more 
expeditious in putting the wearer out of torture. Dante 
now rose from the dust of self-abasement, openly pro- 
fessed himself a Ghibelline, and changed his tones of 
supplication into those of menace against his refractory 
countrymen. Henry himself denounced terrible retri- 
bution upon the Guelfs, and at the head of an army 
invaded the Florentine territory ; from which, however, 
lie was compelled to make an early retreat ; and the 
magnificent flourish of drums and trumpets, with which 
the imperial actor entered, was followed by a dead 
march, that closed the scene before he had turned round 
upon the stage except to hurry away. He died in 
1313, poisoned, it was reported, by a consecrated wafer. 
To this prince Dante dedicated his political treatise, in 
Latin, " De Monarchia," in which he eloquently asserts 
the rights of the emperor in Italy against the usurpations 
of the pope. He has been accused of exciting Henry 
to abandon the siege of Brescia, and undertake that of 
Florence ; though, from regard to his native land, he 
himself forebore to accompany the expedition. He had 
affected no such scruple when the Bianchi, like trodden 
worms, turned upon the parent foot which spurned 
them from the soil where they were bred. There must, 
therefore, have been some other motive than patriotism, 
nobody will suspect that it was cowardice, which re- 
strained him from witnessing the expected humiliation 
of his persecutors. 

Several of his biographers state, that after this con- 
summation of his ruin, a third decree having been 
passed against him at Florence, the poet retired into 
France, and strove to reconcile his unsubdued spirit to 
his fate, or to forget both it and himself in those fashion- 

* See Goldsmith's Traveller, towards the end. 


able theological controversies, for which he was, perhaps, 
better qualified than either for the council-chamber or 
the battle-field. This, however, is doubtful, and, in 
fact, very improbable, when we recollect that, next to 
the malice of the Neri, he was indebted for his mis- 
fortunes to Charles of Valois, their patron, who was 
brother to Philip the Fair, king of France. Be this as 
it may, the remainder of Dante's life was spent in wan- 
dering from one petty court to another, in exile and 
poverty, accepting the means of subsistence, almost as 
alms, from lukewarm friends, from hospitable strangers, 
and even from generous adversaries. Hence we trace 
him, at uncertain periods, through Lombardy, Tuscany, 
and Romagna, as an admitted, welcomed, admired, or 
merely a tolerated guest, according to the liberality or 
caprice of his patrons for the time being. Little more 
can be recorded of these " evil days" and " years," of 
which he was compelled to say, " 1 have no pleasure 
in them," than a few questionable anecdotes of his 
caustic humour, and the names of some of those who 
showed him kindness in his affliction. 

Among the latter may be honourably mentioned 
Busone da Gubbio, who first afforded him shelter 
at Arezzo, whither he himself had been banished from 
Florence as an incorrigible Ghibelline ; but being a 
brother poet, he was too noble to let political prejudice 
(Dante was at that time a Guelf) interfere either with 
his compassion towards an illustrious fugitive, or his ve- 
neration for those rare talents which ought every where 
to have raised the unhappy possessor above contempt, 
though, in some instances, they seem to have exposed 
him to it. Yet he knew well how to resent indignity. 
While residing at Verona with Can' Grande de la Scala 
(one of his most distinguished protectors), it happened 
one day, according to the rude usages of those times, 
that the prince's jester, or some casual buffoon about the 
palace, was introduced at table, to divert the high-born 
company there with his waggeries. In this the arch 
fellow succeeded so egregiously, that Dante, from scorn 


or mortification, showed signs of chagrin, whereupon 
Can' Grande sarcastically asked, " How comes it, Dante, 
that you, with all your learning and genius, cannot 
delight me and my friends half so much as this fool 
does with his ribaldry and grimaces?" " Because 
like loves like" was the pithy retort of the poet, in the 
phrase of the proverb. Another story of the kind is 
told by Cinthio Geraldi. On occasion of a jovial enter- 
tainment, Can' Grande, or his jester, had placed a little 
boy under the table,, to gather all the bones that were 
thrown down upon the floor by the guests, and lay them 
about the feet of Dante. After dinner these were un- 
expectedly shown above board, as tokens of his feasting 
prowess. " You have done great things to day ! " ex- 
claimed the prince, affecting surprise at such an ex- 
hibition. " Far otherwise," returned the poet ; " for 
if I had been a dog, (Cane, his patron's name,) I 
should have devoured bones and all, as it appears you 
have done."* 

Other grandees, who gave the indignant wanderer an 
occasional asylum from the blasts of persecution, were 
the marchese Malespina, who, though belonging to the 
antagonist party, cordially entertained him in Lunigiana; 
the conte Guido Salvatico, of Cassentino ; the signori 
della Faggiuolo, among the mountains of Urbino ; and 
also the fathers of the monastery of Santa Croce di Fonte 
Avellana, in the district of Gubbio. In this romantic 
retreat, according to the Latin inscription under a 
marble bust of him against a wall in one of the cham- 
bers, Dante is recorded to have written a considerable 
portion of the " Divina Commedia." In a tower be- 
longing to the conti Falucci, in the same territory, 
there is a tradition that he was often employed in the 
like manner. At the castle of Tulmino, the residence of 

* A silly practical joke, which has probably been often repeated in such 
parties, as it much resembles one told by Josephus respecting the young 
Hyrcanus. In fact, there is scarcely " a good thing" of this base class, 
which, on investigation, does not beconfe apocryphal from too much evi- 


the patriarch of Aquileia, a rock has been pointed out as 
a favourite resort of the inspired poet, while engaged 
in that marvellous and melancholy composition. 

" There, nobly pensive, Dante sat and thought." 

Marius, banished from his country, and resting upon the 
ruins of Carthage, may have appeared a more august and 
mournful object ; but Dante, in exile, want, and degrad- 
ation, on a lonely crag, meditating thoughts, combining 
images, and creating a language for both in which they 
should for ever speak, presents a far more sublime and 
touching spectacle of fallen grandeur renovating itself 
under decay. Marius, having " mewed his mighty 
youth," flew back to Rome like the eagle to his quarry, 
surfeited himself with vengeance, and died in a debauch 
of blood, leaving a name to be execrated through all 
generations : Dante did not return to Florence ; living 
or dead he did not return ; but his name, cast out and 
abhorred as it had been, stands the earliest and the 
greatest of a long line of Tuscan poets, rivalling the most 
illustrious of their country, not excepting those of even 
Rome and Ferrara. 

Dante's last and most magnanimous patron was Guido 
Novello da Polenta, lord of Ravenna, who was himself 
a poet, and a munificent benefactor of men of letters. 
This nobleman was the father of Francesca di Rimini, 
whose fatal love has given her a place on the most splen- 
did page of the " Divina Commedia ;" no other episode 
being told with equal beauty and pathos : yet so brief 
and simple is the narrative, that, even if the circum- 
stances were as unexceptionably pure as they are insidi- 
ously delicate, translation ought hardly to be attempted ; 
for the labour would be fruitless. Dante himself could 
not have given his masterpiece in precisely correspond- 
ing terms in another language ; though, had any other 
been his own, it need not be doubted that in it he would 
have found words to tell his tale as well. It is not what 
a poet finds a language to be, but what he makes it, 


that constitutes the charm, not to be imitated, of his 
style. This is the despair of translators, though few 
seem to have suspected the existence of such a secret. 

The mental sufferings of the poet during his nine, 
teen years of banishment, ending in death, oftener find 
utterance, through his writings, in bitter invectives and 
prophetic denunciations against his enemies and tra- 
ducers, than in strains of lamentation ; yet would his 
wounds bleed afresh, and the anguish of his spirit be 
renewed with all the tenderness of wronged but passionate 
attachment, at every endeared recollection of the land of 
his nativity; the city where he had been cradled and had 
grown up where Beatrice was born, beloved, and bu- 
ried where he had himself attained the highest honours 
of the state, and, in his own esteem, deserved the lasting 
gratitude of his fellow-citizens, instead of experiencing 
their implacable hatred. Haughty yet humbled, vin- 
dictive yet forgiving, it is manifest, even in his darkest 
moods, that his heart yearned for reconciliation ; that he 
pined in home- sickness wherever he went, and would 
gladly have renounced all his wrath, and submitted 
to any self-denial consistent with honour, to be re- 
ceived back into his country. For, much as he loved 
the latter, nay, madly as he loved it in his paroxysms 
of exasperation, he wrapt himself up tighter in the 
mantle of his integrity as the storm raged more vehe- 
mently ; and, as the conflict went harder against him, 
grasped his honour, like his sword, never to be sur- 
rendered but with life : to preserve these, he submitted 
to lose all beside. 

Boccaccio says, that, at a certain time, some friend 
obtained from the Florentine government leave for 
Dante to return, on condition that he should remain 
a while in prison, then do penance at the principal church 
during a festival solemnity, and afterwards be exempt 
from further punishment for his offences against the 
state. As might be expected, he spurned the igno- 
minious terms. A letter, preserved in the Laurentian 


library *, seems to refer to this circumstance, which, 
till the modern discovery of that document, required 
stronger testimony than the random verbiage of Boc- 
caccio to confirm its credibility. It is addressed to a cor- 
respondent at Florence, whom the writer styles " father." 
The following are extracts ; the original is in Latin. 
Having alluded to some overtures for pardon and return, 
nearly corresponding with those above mentioned, he 
proceeds : 

" Can such a recall to his country, after fifteen years' exile, 
be glorious to Dante Alighieri? Has innocence, which is 
manifest to every one, have toil and fatigue in perpetuated 
studies, merited this ? Away from the man trained up in 
philosophy, the dastard humiliation of an earth-born heart, that, 
like some petty pretender to knowledge, or other base wretch, 
he should endure to be delivered up in chains ! Away from 
the man who demands justice, the thought that, after having 
suffered wrong, he should make terms by his money with those 
who have injured him, as though they had done righteously ! 

No, father ! this is not the way of return to my country 
for me. Yet, if you, or any body else, can find another which 
shall not compromise the fame and the honour of Dante, I will 
not be slow to take it. But if by such an one he may not 
return to Florence, to Florence he will never return. What 
then ? May I not every where behold the sun and the stars ? 
Can I not every where under heaven meditate on the most 
noble and delightful truths, without first rendering myself in- 
glorious, aye infamous, before the people and city of Florence, 

and this, for fear I should want bread ! " 

Far different return to Florence, and far other scene 
in his favourite church there, had he sometimes ventured 
to anticipate as possible. This we learn from the open- 
ing of the twenty-fifth canto of the " Paradiso," where, 
even in the presence of Beatrice and St. Peter, he thus 
unbosoms the long-cherished hope ; conscious of high 
desert, as well as grievous injustice, which he would 
nevertheless most fervently forgive, could restoration to 
his country be obtained on terms " consistent with the 
fame and honour of Dante." 

* Sec the Edinburgh Review, voLxxx. p. 349. 


" If e'er the sacred song, which heaven and earth 
Have lent a hand to frame, which, many a year, 
Hath kept me lean with thought, o'ercome the rage 
That bars re-entrance to the lovely fold, 
Where, like a lamb, I slept ; the foe of wolves, 
Waging inveterate war against its life ; 
With other voice, with other fleece, will I 
Return, a poet, and receive the laurel 
At that baptismal font, where I was brought 
Into the faith which makes souls dear to God." * 

In the same church here alluded to (San Giovanni), 
at Florence, there remained till lately a stone-remem- 
brancer of Dante, in his prosperous days, scarcely less 
likely than " storied urn or animated hust," to awaken 
that sweet and voluntary sadness by which we love to 
associate dead things with the memory of those who 
once have lived. This was no other than an ancient 
bench of masonry which ran along the wall, 

" South of the church, east of the belfry-tower," 

on which, according to long-believed tradition, the future 
poet of the other world was wont to 

" Sit conversing in the sultry time," 
with those, 

" Who little thought that in his hand he held 
The balance, and assign'd, at his good pleasure, 
To each his place in the invisible world." 

ROGERS'S Italy. 

Here also, according to his own record, in rescuing a 
child which had fallen into the water, he accidentally 
broke one of the baptismal fonts, a circumstance which 
seems to have been maliciously misrepresented as an 

* " Se mai continga che '1 poema sacro, 

Al quale ha posto raano e cielo e terra, 

SI che m' ha fatto per pift anni macro, 
Vinca la crudelta, che fuor mi serra 

Del bello ovile, ov' io dormV agnello 

Nimico a' lupi, che gli danno guerra ; 
Con altra voce omai, con altro vello 

Ritornert) poeta, ed in sul fonte 

Del mio battesmo prender6 '1 capcllo ; 
Perocche nella fede, che fa conte 
. L'animea Dio." 


act of wilful sacrilege. His stern anxiety to clear 
himself is characteristically indicated hy the brief but 
dignified attestation of the real fact, in the last line of the 
following singular parallel between objects not other- 
wise likely to be brought into comparison with each 
other. Describing the wells in which, head-downward, 
simoniacal offenders (among the rest pope Nicholas III.) 
were tormented with flames, that glanced from heel to 
toe along the up-turned soles of their feet, he says, 

" The sides and bottom of that livid rock 
Were scoop'd into round holes, of equal size, 
Which seem'd not less nor larger than the fonts 
For baptism, in my beautiful St. John's ; 
And one of which, not many years ago, 
I broke to save a drowning child from death : 
Be this my seal to undeceive the world." * 

Deli' Inferno, canto xix. 

Dante resided several years at Ravenna, with the 
noble-minded Guido da Polenta, who, of his own accord, 
had invited him thither, and who, to the last moment of 
his life, made him feel no other burden in his service 
than gratitude for benefits bestowed with such a grace as 
though the giver, and not the receiver, were laid under 
obligation. By him being sent on an embassy to Venice, 
with the government of which Guido had an unhappy 
dispute, Dante not only failed to accomplish a reconci- 
liation, but was even refused an audience, and compelled to 
return by land for fear of the enemy's fleet, which had 
already commenced hostilities along the coast. He ar- 
rived at Ravenna broken-hearted with the disappoint- 
ment, and died soon afterwards, according to his 
epitaph, on the 14th of September, 1321, though some 
authorities date his demise in July preceding. 

" I' vidi per Ic coste, e per lo fondo, 

Piena la pietra livida di fori 

D'un largo tutti, e ciascuno era tpndo. 
Non mi paren meno ampj, ne maggiori, 

Che quei, che son nel raio bel San Giovanni, 

Fatti per iuogp de* battezzatori ; 
If un degli quali, ancor non molt' anni, 

Rupp' io per un, che dentro v'annegava ; 

E questo sia suggel, ch' ogni uomo sgannL" 

VOL. I. D 


The remains of the illustrious poet were buried with 
a splendour honourable to his name and worthy of 
his patron, who himself pronounced the funeral eulogium 
of his departed guest. His own countrymen, who had 
hardened their hearts against justice and humanity, in 
resistance of his return amongst them while living, soon 
after his death became sensible of their folly, and too 
late repented it. Embassy on embassy, during the two 
succeeding centuries, failed to recover the bones of their 
outcast fellow-citizen from his hospitable entertainers; 
and Florence has less to boast of in having given him 
birth, than Ravenna for having given him burial. One 
of those fruitless negotiations was conducted under the 
auspices of Leo X., and *nore illustriously sanctioned by 
Michael Angelo, an enthusiastic admirer of Dante, 
who offered to adorn the shrine, had the desired relics 
been obtained. The mighty sculptor, himself the 
Dante of marble, simple, severe, sublime in style, and 
preternatural almost from the fulness of reality con- 
densed in his ideal forms, in many of his works, both of 
the chisel and the pencil, introduced figures suggested by 
images of the poet, or directly embodying such. Most 
conspicuous among these were the statues of Leah and 
Rachel, from the twenty-seventh canto of the " Pur- 
gatorio," on the monument of pope Julius II. His own 
copy of the " Divina Commedia " was embellished down 
the margin with sketches from the subjects of the text ; 
and, had it been preserved, would surely have been 
classed with the most precious of those books for which 
collectors are eager to give ten times or more their weight 
in gold. The fate of this volume was not less singular 
than its good fortune; after having been made ines- 
timable by the hand of Michael Angelo, it was lost at 
sea, and thus added to the treasures of darkness one of 
the richest spoils that ever went down from the light. 

, It was the purpose of Guido da Polenta to erect a 
gorgeous sepulchre over the ashes of the poet ; but he 
neither reigned nor lived to accomplish this, being soon 
afterwards driven from his dominions, and dying himself 


a banished man at Bologna. More than a hundred and 
fifty years later, Bernardo Bembo, father of the famous 
cardinal, completed Polenta's design, though upon an 
inferior scale ; and three centuries more had elapsed, when 
cardinal Gonzaga raised a second and far more sump- 
tuous monument in the same place, Ravenna; while 
in Florence, to this day, there is none worthy of itself or 
the poet, who had been in turn " its glory and its 
shame." The greatest honours conferred on his memory 
by his native city were, the restoration to his family of 
his confiscated property, after a lapse of forty years, the 
erection of a bust crowned with laurel, at the public 
expense, a present from the state of ten golden florins to 
his daughter by the hands of Boccaccio, and the ap- 
pointment of a public lecturer to expound the mysteries 
of the " Divina Commedia." Boccaccio was the first 
professor who filled this chair of poetry, philosophy, and 
theology. He commenced his dissertations on a Sunday, 
in the church of St. Stephen, but died at the end of two 
years, having proceeded no further than the seventeenth 
Canto of the " Inferno." Similar institutions were 
adopted in Bologna, Pisa, Venice, and other Italian 
towns ; so that the renown of the man who had lived 
by sufferance, died an outlaw, and been indebted to 
strangers for a grave, exceeded, within two centuries, 
that of all his countrymen who in polite literature had 
gone before him, and became the load-star of all who, 
in any age, should follow. At Rome only the memory 
of the Ghibelline bard was execrated, and his writings 
were proscribed. His book " De Monarchia" was pub- 
licly burnt there, by order of pope John XXII.. who also 
sent a cardinal to the successor of Guido da Polenta, to 
demand his bones, that they might be dealt with as 
those of an heretic, and the ashes scattered on the wind. 
How impotent is the vengeance of the great after the 
death of the object of their displeasure ! What a refuge, 
especially to fame, is the grave ; a sanctuary which can 
never be violated; for all human passions die on its 
threshold ! 

D 2 


Boccaccio, the earliest of his biographers, though not 
the most authentic, says, that in person Dante was of 
middle stature; that he stooped a little from the 
shoulders, and was remarkable for his firm and graceful 
gait. He always dressed in a manner peculiarly be- 
coming his rank and years. His visage was long, with 
an aquiline nose, and eyes rather full than small ; his 
cheek-bones large, and his upper lip projecting beyond 
the under ; his complexion was dark ; his hair and 
beard black, thick and curled ; and his countenance 
exhibited a confirmed expression of melancholy and 
thoughtfulness. Hence one day, at Verona, as he 
passed a gateway, where several ladies were seated, one 
of them exclaimed, " There goes the man who can take 
a walk to hell, and back again, whenever he pleases, 
and bring us news of every thing that is doing there." 
On which another, with equal sagacity, added, " That 
must be true ; for don't you see how his beard is friz- 
zled, and his face browned, with the heat and the 
smoke below !" The words, whether spoken in sport 
or silliness, were overheard by the poet, who, as the 
fair slanderers meant no malice,, was quite willing that 
they should please themselves with their own fancies. 
Towards the opening of the " Purgatorio" there is an 
allusion to the soil which his face had contracted on his 
journey with Virgil through the nether world : 

" High morn had triumphed o'er the glimmering dawn 

Which fled before her, so that I discern'd 

The tremble of the ocean from afar : 

We walk'd along the solitary plain, 

Like men retracing their erratic steps, 

Who think all lost till they regain the path. 

Arriving where the dew-drops with the sun 

Contended, and lay thick beneath the shade, 

Both hands my master delicately spread 

Upon the grass : aware of his intent, 

I turn'd to him my tearful countenance, 

And thence he wiped away the dusky hue, 

With which the infernal air had sullied it." * 

* " L' alba vinceva 1' ora mattutina, 

Che fuggia 'nnanzi, si die di lontano 
Conobbi il tremolar del la manna : 


In his studies, Dante was so eager, earnest, and 
indefatigable, that his wife and family often complained 
of his unsocial habits. Boccaccio mentions, that once, 
when he was at Siena, having unexpectedly found at 
a shop window a book which he had not seen, but 
had long coveted, he placed himself on a bench be- 
fore the door, at nine o'clock in the morning, and 
never lifted up his eyes from the volume till vespers, 
when he had run through the whole contents with such 
intense application, as to have totally disregarded the 
festivities of processions and music which had been 
passing through the streets the greater part of the day ; 
and when questioned about what had happened even in 
his presence, he denied having had knowledge of any 
thing but what he was reading. As might be expected 
from his other habits, he rarely spoke, except when 
personally addressed, or strongly moved, and then his 
words were few, well chosen, weighty, and expressed in 
tones of voice accommodated to the subject. Yet when 
it was required, his eloquence brake forth with spon- 
taneous felicity, splendour, and exuberance of diction, 
imagery, and thought. 

Dante delighted in music. The most natural and 
touching incident in his ie Purgatorio " is the interview 
between himself and his friend Casella ; an eminent 
singer in his day, who must, notwithstanding, have been 
forgotten within his century, but for the extraordinary 
good fortune which has befallen him, to be celebrated 
by two of the greatest poets of their respective countries, 
(Dante and Milton) from whose pages his name cannot 
soon perish. 

Nqi andavam per lo solingo piano, 

Com* uom, che torna alia smaritta strada, 

Che "nfino ad essa li pare ire invano. 
Otiando noi fuinmo, dove la rugiada 

Pugna col sole, e per essere in parte 

Ove adorezza, poco si dirada, 
Ambo le mani in su 1'erbetta sparte 

Soavemente '1 mio maestro pose ; 

Ond' io che fui accorto di su 1 arte, 
Porsi ver lui le guance lagrimose ; 

Quivi mi fece tutto discoverto 

Quel color, che I'inferno mi nascoso." 
D 3 


Choosing to excel in all the elegancies of life, as well 
as in gentlemanly exercises and intellectual prowess, 
Dante attached himself to painting not less than to 
music, and practised it with the pencil (not, indeed, si) 
triumphantly as with the pen, his picture-poetry being 
unrivalled,) with sufficient facility and grace to make it 
a favourite amusement in private ; and none can believe 
that he could amuse himself with what was worthless. 
His four celebrated contemporaries, Cimabue, Odorigi, 
Franco Bolognese, and Giotto, are all honourably men- 
tioned by him in the eleventh canto of the (C Purgatorio." 

There is an interesting allusion to the employment 
which he loved in the " Vita Nuova: " On the day 
that completed the year after this lady (Beatrice) had 
been received among the denizens of eternal life, while 
I was sitting alone, and recalling her form to my 
remembrance, I drew an angel on a certain tablet," 
&c. It may be incidentally observed, that Dante's 
angels are often painted with unsurpassable beauty as 
well as inexhaustible variety of delineation throughout 
his poem, especially in canto ix. of the " Inferno,"' 
and cantos ii. viii. xii. xv. xvii. xxiv. of the " Purga- 
torio." Take six lines of one of these portraits ; though 
the inimitable original must consume the unequal ver- 

" A noi venia la creatura bella, 
Bianco vestita, e nella faccia, quale 
Par, tremolando, mattutina stella: 
Le braccia aperse, e indi aperse 1' ale ; 
Disse ; ' Venite ; qui son presso i gradi, 
E agevolmente omai si sale.' " 

Dell' Purgatorio, canto xii. 

" That being came, all beautiful, to meet us, 
Clad in white raiment, and the morning star 
Appear'd to tremble in his countenance ; 
His arms he spread, and then he spread his wings 
And cried, Come on, the steps are near at hand, 
And here the ascent is easy.' " 

Leonardo Aretino, who had seen Dante's handwriting, 
mentions, with no small commendation, that the letters 


were long, slender, and exceedingly distinct, the 
characteristics of what is called in ornamental writing 
a fine Italian hand. The circumstance may seem small, 
but it is not insignificant as a finishing stroke in the 
portraiture of one who, though he was the first poet 
unquestionably, and not the last philosopher, was also 
one of the most accomplished gentlemen of his age. 

Two of Dante's sons, Pietro and Jacopo, inherited a 
portion of their father's spirit, and were among the first 
commentators on his works, an inestimable advantage 
to posterity, since the local and personal histories were 
familiar to them; for had these not been explained by 
contemporaries, many of the brief and more exquisite 
allusions must have been irrecoverably lost, and some of 
the most affecting passages remained as uninterpretable 
as though they had been carved on granite in hierogly- 
phics. For example, in the fifth canto of the " Pur- 
gatorio/' the travellers meet three spirits together, the 
first, Giacopo del Cassero of Fano, who had been 
assassinated by order of a prince of Ferrara, for having 
spoken ill of his highness; the second, Buonconte, of 
Montefeltro, who had fallen fighting on the side of the 
Aretines, in the battle of Campaldino ; and for whose 
soul a singular contention took place between a good 
angel and an evil one, in which the former happily pre- 
vailed ; the third shade was that of a female of rank, 
who, having quietly waited till the two gentlemen had 
told their tales, thus emphatically hinted hers : 

" Ah ! when thou hast return'd to yonder world, 
And art reposing from thy long, long journey, 
Remember me, for I am Pia : 

* # * * 

Siena gave me birth, Maremma death, 

And this he knows, who, with his ring and jewel, 

But newly had espoused me."* 

* " Deh, quando tu sarai tomato al mondo, 
riposato della lunga via, 

* * 
Ricorditi di me, che son la Pia : 

Siena mi fe' ; disfecemi Maremma; 
Salsi colui, che 'nnanellata pria, 
Disposando m'avea con la sua gemma.", 
D 4 


This unfortunate lady was the bride of Nello della 
Pietra, a grandee of Siena, who, becoming jealous 
of her, removed his predestined victim to the putrid 
marshes of Maremma, where she soon drooped and 
died, without suspicion on her part, or intimation on 
his, of the hideous purpose for which she had been hur- 
ried thither ; her gloomy keeper, with a dreadful eye, 
watching her life go out like a lamp in a charn el- vault, 
and after her death abandoning himself to despair. One 
of Dante's sons above mentioned (Pietro) was an emi- 
nent lawyer at Verona, and enjoyed the friendship of 
Petrarch, who dedicated some lines to him, at Trevizi, 
in 1361. Jacopo is said to have been a writer of Italian 
verse. Of three others, almost nothing is known, ex- 
cept that they died young. His daughter Beatrice, so 
named after his first love, took the veil in the convent 
of St. Stefano del' Uliva, at Ravenna. 

Dante was the author of two Latin treatises, the 
one already noticed, " De Monarchia ;" and another, 
te De Vulgari Eloquio," on the structure of language 
in general, and that of Italy in particular. But for his 
celebrity he is indebted solely to his productions in the 
latter tongue, consisting of " La Vita Nuova," a reverie 
of fact and fable, in prose and rhyme, referring to his 
youthful love ; <f Canzoni * and Sonnets " of which 
his lady was the eternal theme; " II Convito," a cri- 
tical and mystical commentary on three of his lyrics ; 
and the " Divina Commedia, or Vision of Hell, Purga- 
tory, and Paradise," by the glory of which its forerunners 
have been at once eclipsed and kept in mid- day splen- 
dour, instead of glimmering through that doubtful twi- 
light of obscure fame among the feeble productions of 
contemporaries, which must have been their lot but for 
such fortunate alliance. 

The prose of the (l Vita Nuova" and the et Convito" is 

* anzoni are the larger odes of the Italians, composed according to cer- 
tain strict but exquisite rules ; which, when rightly observed, give admir- 
able harmony and proportion to what may be called" the architecture of the 
thoughts : the stanzas resembling columns of the most perfect symmetry, 
which may be infinitely diversified, and of considerable length, each new 
form constituting what may be termed a different order. 


deemed, at this day, not only nervous and racy, but in a 
high degree pure and elegant Italian; while much greater 
praise may he unhesitatingly bestowed upon his verse. 
Whether employed upon the arbitrary structure of Can- 
zoni, the love-knot form of the sonnet, or the intermin- 
able chain of terse rime, (the triple intertwisted rhyme of 
the "DivinaCommedia," which Dante is supposed to have 
invented,) his language is not more antiquated to his 
countrymen than the English of Shakspeare is to ours. 
The limits of the present essay preclude further notice 
of his lyrics than the general remark, that they have all 
the stately, brief, sententious character of his heroics, 
with occasional strokes of natural tenderness, and not 
unfrequently exhibit a delicacy of thought so pure, 
graceful, and unaffected, that Petrarch himself has sel- 
dom reached it in his more ornate and laboured com- 

Dante did more than either his predecessors or contem- 
poraries had done to improve, ennoble, and refine his 
native idiom ; indeed he was wont to speak indignantly 
of those who would degrade it below the Provencal, the 
fashionable vehicle of verse in that age of transition, 
when the young languages of modern Europe, begotten 
between the stern tongues of the north and the classic 
ones of the south, were growing up together, on both 
sides of the Alps and the Pyrenees, like children in ri- 
valry of each other, as the nations that spoke them 
respectively, so often intermingled in war or in peace. 
At the close of canto xxvi. of the " Purgatorio," Arnauld 
Daniel is introduced as the master-minstrel of the age 
gone by, singing some lines in a " Babylonish dialect," 
partly Provencal and partly Catalonian ; pitting infa- 
mous French against the worst kind of Spanish (accord- 
ing to P. P. Venturi); and these certainly present a 
striking contrast of barbarous dissonance with the full- 
toned Tuscan of the context. 

Like our Spenser, Dante took many freedoms with the 
extant Italian, which no later writer could have used. 
For the sake of euphony, emphasis, or rhyme, he occa- 


sionally modified words and terminations to serve a 
present purpose only, and which he himself rejected 
elsewhere. In this he was justified : he ran through 
the whole compass of his native vocabulary, he tried 
every note of the diapason, and all that were most pure, 
harmonious,, or energetic, he sanctioned, by employing 
them in his song, which gave them a voice through after 
ages, so that few, comparatively very few, have been 
entirely rejected by his most fastidious successors. It 
was well for the poetry of his country that he wrote 
his immortal work in its language; for neither Petrarch 
nor Boccaccio could have gone so far as they did in 
perfecting it, if they had not had so great a model, 
not to equal only but to excel. They, indeed, affected 
to think little of their vernacular writings, and pretended 
merely to amuse themselves with such compositions as 
every body could read. Dante himself began his poem 
in Latin; and if he had gone forward, the finishing 
stroke of the last line would have been a coup-de-grace, 
which it could never have survived.* 

Of the origin of the " Divina Commedia" it would 
be in vain to speculate here ; the author himself, pro- 
bably, could not have traced the first idea. Such con- 
ceptions neither come by inspiration nor by chance : 

* Lord Byron, in his poem, " The Prophecy of Dante," (canto ii.) has 
the following noble apostrophe, which, as it refers to the subject of the 
foregoing paragraph, and affords a fine English specimen of the terxe rime t 
in which the Divina Commedia is composed, cannot be more opportunely 
introduced than in this place : 

" Italia! ah ! to me such things, foreshown 
With dim sepulchral light, bid me forget 
In thine irreparable wrongs my own : 
We can have but one country, and even yet 
Thou 'rt mine my bones shall be within thy breast, 
My soul within thy language, which once set 
With our old Roman sway in the wide West ; 
But I will make another tongue arise 
As lofty and more sweet, in which exprest 
The hero's ardour, or the lover's sighs, 
Shall find alike such sounds for every theme, 
That every word, as brilliant as thy skies, 
Shall realise a poet's proudest dream, 

And make thee Europe's nightingale of song ; 
So that all present speech to thine shall seem 
The note of meaner birds, and every tongue 
Confess its barbarism when compared with thine. 
This shall thou owe to him thou didst so wrong,- 
The Tuscan Bard, the banish'd Ghibelline." 


who can recollect the moment when he began to think, 
yet all his thoughts have been consecutively allied to that ? 
Many visions and allegories had appeared before Dante's; 
and in several of these were gross representations of the 
spiritual world, especially of purgatory, the reality of 
which, during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, was 
urged upon credulity with extraordinary zeal and perse- 
verance by a corrupt hierarchy. By all these rather than 
by one his mind might have been prepared for the 

Seven cantos of the " Inferno" are understood to 
have been written before the author's banishment ; it is 
manifest, however, that if this were the case they must 
have been considerably altered after wards ; indeed the 
whole character of the poem, however the original out- 
line may have been followed, must have undergone a 
very remarkable, and (afflictive as the occasion may 
have been for himself) a very auspicious change, from his 
misfortunes. To the latter, his poem owes many of its 
most splendid passages, and almost all its personal in- 
terest ; an interest wherein consists, if not its principal, 
its prevailing and preserving charm. Had the whole 
been composed in prosperity, amidst honours, and afflu- 
ence, and learned ease, in his native city, it would no 
doubt have been a mighty achievement of genius ; but 
much that enhances and endears both its moral and its 
fable could never have been suggested, indeed would not 
have existed, under happier circumstances. That moral, 
indeed, is often as mistaken as that fable is monstrous ; 
but the one and the other should be judged according to 
the times. The poet's romantic and unearthly love to 
Beatrice would have wanted that sombre and terrible 
relief which is now given to it by the gloom of his own 
character, the expression of his feelings under the sense 
of unmerited wrongs, invectives thundered out against 
his persecutors, and exposures of atrocities which were 
every-day deeds of every-day men, in those distracted 
countries, of which his poem has left such fearful 


Much unsatisfactory discussion has arisen upon the 
title " Divina Commedia," which Dante gave to his 
poem ; it being presumed that he had never seen a 
regular drama either in letter or exhibition, as the 
Greek and Latin authors of that class were scarcely 
known in Italy till after his time. The religious spec- 
tacles, however, common in the darkest of the middle 
ages, consisting not of pantomime only, but of dialogue 
and song, may have suggested to him the designation as 
well as the subject of his strange adventure. Be this as 
it may, the character of the work is dramatic throughout, 
consisting of a series of scenes, which conduct to one 
catastrophe ; for however miscellaneous or insulated they 
may seem in respect to each other, in respect to the 
author (who is his own hero, and for whose warning, in- 
struction, and final recovery from an evil course of life, 
the whole are collocated,) they all bear directly upon him, 
and accomplish by just gradations the purpose for which 
they were intended. Dante is a changed man when he 
emerges, from the infernal regions in the centre of the 
globe, upon the shore of the island of Purgatory at the 
Antipodes ; and is further so refined by his ascent up 
that perilous mount, that when he reaches the terrestrial 
paradise at the top, he is prepared for translation from 
thence through the nine spheres of the celestial universe. 
Many of the interviews between the visiters of the in- 
visible worlds which they explore, and the inhabitants of 
these, are scenes which involve all the peculiarities of 
stage-exhibitions, dialogue, action, passion, secrecy, 
surprise, interruption. Examples may be named. The 
meeting and conversations with Sordello, in the sixth and 
seventh cantos of the " Purgatorio," in which there are 
two instances of unexpected discoveries which bring out 
the whole beauty and grandeur of that mysterious person- 
age's character; as a patriot, when at the mere sound of the 
word " Mantua" he embraces Virgil with transport, not 
yet knowing, nor even enquiring, any thing further about 
him, except that he is his countryman ; and afterwards 
as a poet, when, Virgil disclosing his name, Sordello is 


overpowered with delightful astonishment, like one who 
suddenly beholds something wonderful before him, and, 
scarcely believing his own eyes for joy, exclaims, in a 
breath, " It is ! it is not ! " (Eti c, non e\) The parties 
are thus introduced to each other. Dante and Virgil 
are considering which road they shall take, when the 
latter observes : 

" Yonder I see a spirit, fix'd in thought, 
Alone and gazing earnestly upon us, 
He will point out the readier way to take. 
Tow'rds him we went Soul of a Longobardian ! 
How didst thou stand aloof with haughty bearing, 
And lordly eyes, slow-moving as we moved ! 
He utter'd not a word, but let us pass, 
On-looking like a lion from his lair : 
But Virgil, drawing near, entreated him 
To show the easiest path for our ascent : 
Still to that meek request he answer'd not, 
But of our country and our way of life 
Enquired ; my courteous guide began then, Mantua'; 
Straight at the word, that spirit, erewhile so wrapt 
Within himself, sprang from his place, and cried, 
O Mantuan ! I 'm thy countryman, Sordello ; ' 
And one the other instantly embraced." * 

The reserve of Sordello is generally attributed to 
stubbornness or pride ; but is it not manifest that, on 
the first sight of the strangers, he had a misgiving hope 
(if the phrase be allowable) which he feared might 
deceive him, that they were countrymen of his, where- 

* " Ma vedi Ik un' anima, ch' a posta, 

Sola soletta verso noi riguarda ; 

Quella ne 'nsegnera la via piu tosta 
Venimmo a lei : O anima Lombarda ! 

Come ti stavi altera e disdegnosa, 

E nel muover degli occhi onesta e tarda ! 
Ella non ci diceva alcuna cosa ; 

Ma lasciavane gir, solo guardando 

A guisa di leon, quandp si posa. 
Pur Virgilio si trasse a lei, pregando, 

Che ne mostrasse la miglior salita ; 

E quella non rispose al suo dimando, 
Ma di nostro paese, e del la vita 

C' inchiese ; e '1 dolce duca incomminciava, 

Mantova ' e 1'ombra tutta in se romita, 
Surse ver lui del luogo, ove pria stava, 

Dicendo, ' O Mantovano! ioson Sordello 

Delia tua terra ;' e 1'un 1'altro abbracciava." 


fore, absorbed in that sole idea, he disregards their ques- 
tion concerning the road, and directly comes to the 
point which he was anxious to ascertain ; and this being 
resolved by the single word <e Mantua," his soul flies 
forth at once to embrace the speaker ? 

In the tenth canto of the " Inferno," where heretics 
are described as being tormented in tombs of fire, the lids 
of which are suspended over them till the day of judg- 
ment, Dante finds Farinata d' Uberti, an illustrious com- 
mander of the Ghibellines, who, at the battle of Monte 
Aperto, in 1260, had so utterly defeated the Guelfs of 
Florence, that the city lay at the mercy of its enemies, 
by whom counsel was taken to raze it to the ground : 
but Farinata, because his bowels yearned towards his 
native city, stood up alone to oppose the barbarous 
design ; and partly by menace having drawn his sword 
in the midst of the assembly and partly by persuasion, 
preserved the city from destruction. The interview is 
thus painted ; but to prepare the reader for well under- 
standing the nature of the by-play which intervenes, it 
is necessary to state that Cavalcante Cavalcanti, whose 
head appears out of an adjacent sepulchre, was the father 
of Guido Cavalcanti, a poet, the particular friend of 
Dante, and chief of the Bianchi party banished during 
his priorship. 

" ' O Tuscan ! Thou, who, through this realm of fire, 
Alive dost walk, thus courteously conversing 
Pause, if it please thee, here. Thy dialect 
Proclaims thy lineage from that noble land, 
Which I, perhaps, too much have wrong'd.' 

" Such sounds 

Suddenly issued forth from one of those 
Sepulchral caverns. Tremblingly I crept 
A little nearer to my guide, but he 

Cried, < Turn again ! What would'st thou do ? Behold, 
'Tis Farinata that hath raised himself: 
.There may'st thou see him, upward from the loins.' 
Already had I fix'd mine eyes on his, 
Who stood, with bust and visage so erect, 
As though he look'd on hell itself with scorn. 
My master then, with prompt and resolute hands, 


Thrust me among the charnel-vaults towards him, 
Saying, Thy words be plain.' When I had reach'd 
His tombstone-foot, he look'd at me a while 
As in disdain, then loftily demanded 
' Who were thine ancestors ? ' 

"Eager to tell, 

Nought I conceal'd, but utter'd all the truth. 
Arching his brow a little, he return'd ; 

* Bitter antagonists of mine, of me, 

And of my party, were thy sires; but twice 
I scatter'd them.' 

" If scatter'd twice,' said I, 

' Once and again they came from all sides back, 
A lesson which thy friends have not well learn'd.' 

" Just then a second figure, at his side, 
Emerged to view ; unveil'd above the chin, 
And kneeling, as methought. It look'd around 
So wistfully, as though it hoped to find 
Some other with me ; but, that hope dispell'd, 
Weeping it spake : 'If through this dungeon-gloom, 
Grandeur of genius guide thy venturous way, 
My son ! where is he ? and why not with thee ?' 
Then I to him : * Not of myself I came ; 
He who awaits me yonder brought me hither, 
One whom perhaps thy Guido held in scorn.* 
His speech and form of penance had already 
Taught me his name 3 my words were therefore pointed. 
Upstarting he exclaim'd : " How ? said'st thou held ? 
Lives he not then ? and doth not heaven's sweet light 
Fall on his eyes ? ' When I was slow to answer, 
Backward he sunk, and re-appear'd no more. 

" Meanwhile that other most majestic form, 
Near which I stood, neither changed countenance, 
Nor turn'd his neck, nor lean'd to either side : 

* And if,' quoth he, our first debate resuming, 

* They have not well that lesson learn'd, the thought 
Torments me more than this infernal bed : 

And yet, not fifty times her changing face, 
Who here reigns sovereign, shall be re-illumined, 
Ere thou shalt know how hard that lesson is.f 
But tell me, so may'st thou return in peace 
To the dear world above ! why are thy people 

* Alluding, it is supposed, to the fact that Guido had forsaken poetry for 
philosophy, or preferred the latter so much above the former, as to think 
lightly of Virgil himself in comparison with Aristotle. 

t He foretells Dante's own expulsion from his country within fifty 


In all their acts so mad against my race ? ' 

' The slaughter and discomfiture,' said 1, 

' That turn'd the river red at Mont-Aperto, 

Have caused such dire proscriptions in our temples. ' 

" He shook his head, deep-sighing, then rejoin'd, 
' I was not there alone ; nor without cause 
Engaged with others ; but I was alone, 
And stood in her defence with open brow, 
When all our council, with one voice, decreed 
That Florence should be razed from her foundation.' 

" * So may thy kindred find repose, as thou 
Shalt loose a knot which hath entangled me ! ' 
Thus I adjured him : 'ye foresee what time 
(If rightly I have heard) will bring to pass, 
But to the present, otherwise, are blind.' 

" ' We see, like him who hath an evil eye, 
Far distant things,' said he ; ' so highest God 
Enlightens us : but yet, when they approach, 
Or when they are, our intellect falls short ; 
Nor can we know, save by report from others, 
Aught of the state of man beneath the sun. 
Hence may'st thou comprehend how all our knowledge 
Shall cease for ever from the point that shuts 
The portal of the future.' * 

" At that moment 

Compunction smote me for my recent fault, 
And I cried out Oh ! tell that fallen one, 
His son is yet among the living. Say, 
That if I falter'd to reply at first 
With that assurance, 'twas because my thoughts 
Were harass'd by the doubt which thou hast solved.' "f 

* The end of time, when their tombs were to be closed up. 
f " ' O Tosco ! che per la cittk del foco 

Vivo ten' vai cosl parlando onesto 

Piacciati di restare in questo loco : 
La tua loquela ti fa manifesto 

Di quella nobH patria natio, 

Alia qual forse fui troppo molesto.' 
Subitamente questo suono usclo 

D'una dell' arche : pero m'accostai, 

Temendo, un poco pid al duco mio. 
Ed ei mi disse : ' Volgiti, che fai ? 

Vedi Ik Farinata, che s'fe dritto. 

Dalla cintola 'n su tutto '1 vedrai.' 
I'avea gi& '1 mio viso nel suo fitto ; 
, Ed ei s'ergea col petto, e con la fronte, 

Comeavesse lo 'nferno in gran dispitto; 
E 1'animose man del duca, e pronte, 

Mi pinser tra le sepolture a lui ; 

Dicendo : ' Le parole tue sien conte.' 
Tosto ch' al pife della sua tomba fui, 

Guardommi un poco, e poi, quasi disdegnoso, 


The reader of these lines (however inferior the trans- 
lation may be), cannot have failed to perceive hy what 

Mi dimandb : ' Chi fur gli maggior tui ? * 

Jo, ch' era d' ubbidir desideroso, 
Non gliel celai, matutto glielo apersi : 
Ond' ei levb le ciglia un poco in soso : 

Poi disse : ' Fieramente furo avversi 
A me, e a miei primi, e a mia parte, 
SI che per duo fiate gli dispersi.' 

S* ei fur cacciati, e' tornar d'ogni parte,' 

Risposi lui, ' 1'unae 1'altra tiata, 

Ma i vostri non appresser ben quell' arte.' 

Allor surse alia vista scoperchiata 
Un' ombra lungo questo infinoal mentoj 
Credo, che s'era inginocchion levata. 

D' intorno mi guardu, come talento 
Avesse di veder, s'altri era meco ; 
Ma, poi che '1 sospicciar fu tutto spento, 

Piangendo disse ; ' Se per questo cieco 
Carcere vai per altezza d'ingegno, 
Mio figlio ov' e, e perche non d teco? ' 

Ed io a lui : ' Da me stesso' non vegno ; 
Colui, ch' attende la, per qul mi mena, 
Forse cui Guido vostro ebbe a disdegno.' 

Le sue parole, e'l modo della pena 
M'avevan di costui gik letto il nome j 
Perc) fu la risposta cosi piena. 

Di subito drizzato gridb; ' Come 
Dicesti, egli ebbe ? non viv' egli ancora ? 
Non fiere gli occhi suoi lo dolce lome ? ' 

Quando s'accorse d'alcuna dimora, 
Ch' i' faceva dinanzi alia risposta, 
Supin ricadde, e piu non parve fuora. 

Ma quell' altro magnanimo, a cui posta 
Restato m' era, non mutb aspetto, 
Ne mosse collo, n piegb sua costa : 

' E se,' continuando al primo detto, 
' Egli han quell' arte,' disse, ' male appresa 
Ci6 mi tormenta piu che questo letto. 

Ma non cinquanta volte lia raccesa 
La faccia della donna, che qul regge, 
Che tu saprai quanto quell' arte pesa. 

E se tu mai nel dolce mondo regge, 
Dimmi, perche quel popol e si empio 
Incpntr' a miei in ciascuna sua legge ? ' 

Ond' io a lui ; ' Lo strazio e '1 grande scempio, 
Che fece '1 Arbia colorata in rosso, 
Tale orazion fa far nel nostro tempio.' 

Poi ch' ebbe sospirando il capo scosso, 
' A ci6 non fu' io sol,' disse, ' nd certo 
Sanza cagion sarei con gli altri mosso ; 

Ma fu' io sol cola, dove sofferto 
Fu per ciascun di torre via Fiorenza, 
Colui, che la difesi a viso aperto.' 

' Deh ! se riposi mai vostra semenza! ' 
Prega' io lui, ' solvetemi quel nodo 
Che qul ha inviluppata mia sentenza ; 

E par, clie voi veggiate, se ben odo, 
Dinanzi quel, cue '1 tempo seco adduce, 
E pel presen te tenete altro modo.' 

* Noi veggiam, come quei, ch' ha mala luce, 

Le cose,' disse, 'che ne son lontanoj 
VOL. I. E 


natural action and speech the paternal anxiety of CavaJ- 
cante respecting his son is indicated. On his hed of 
torture he hears a voice which he knows to he that of 
his son's friend ; he starts up, looks eagerly about, as 
expecting to see that son ; hut observing the friend only, 
he at once interrupts the dialogue with Farinata, and in 
broken exclamations enquires concerning him. Dante 
happening to employ the past tense of a verb in re- 
ference to what his " Guido" might have done, the 
miserable parent instantly lays hold of that minute 
circumstance as an intimation of his death, and asks 
questions of which he dreads the answers, precisely in 
the manner of Macduff when he learns that his wife 
and children had been murdered by Macbeth. The 
poet hesitating to reply, Cavalcante takes the worst 
for granted, falls back in despair, and appears not again. 

" Even from his tomb the voice of Nature cries." 
Dante, however, at the close of the scene, unexpectedly 
recurs to his own fault with the tenderness of compunction 
and delicacy of respect due to an unfortunate being, 
whom he had unintentionally agonised with his silence, 
and sends a message to the old man that his son yet 
lives.* Contrasted with this trembling sensibility of 

Cotanto ancor ne splende '1 sommo duce : 
Quand 's appressano, o son, tutto vano 
Nostro 'ntelletto, e s' altri non ci apporta, 
Nulla sapem di vostro stato uraano. 
Perb comprender puoi, che tutta morta 
Fia nostra conoscenza da quel punto, 
Che del futuro fia chiusa la porta.' 
Allor, come di mia colpa compunto, 
Dissi : ' Or direte dunque a quel caduto, 
Che '1 suo nato fc co' vivi ancor congiunto; 
E s'io fu* dianzi alia risposta muto, 
Fat' ei saper, che '1 fei, perche pensava 
Gik nelP error, che m'avete soluto.'* 

* There are few instances (notwithstanding his tremendous denunciation! 
against bodies of men, the inhabitants of whole cities or states) in which 
Dante forgets courtesy towards individual sufferers ; and, in general, he 
expresses the most honourable sympathy towards his very enemies, when 
he finds them such. In the case of Bocca degli Abati, who, at the battle 
of Monte Aperto, traitorously smote off the right hand of the Florentine 
standard-bearer, the patriotic poet shows no mercy ; but having accident- 
ally kicked him in the face as he stood wedged up to the chin in ice, he 
afterwards tears the locks from the wretch's head to make him tell ui 


a father's affection, stronger than death, and out-feeling 
the pains of hell, is the stern, calm, patient dignity of 
Farinata, who, though wounded to the quick by the retort 
of Dante at the moment when their discourse was broken 
upon, stands unmoved in mind, in look, in posture, till 
the interlude is ended; and then, without the slightest al- 
lusion to it, he takes up the suspended argument at the 
last words of his opponent, as though his thoughts had 
all the while been ruminating on the disgrace of his 
friends, the afflictions of his family, and the inextin- 
guishable enmity of his countrymen against himself. 
His noble rejoinder, on Dante's reference to the carnage 
at Monte Aperto as the cause of his people's implaca- 
bility, is above all praise. Indeed, it would be difficult 
to point out, in ancient or modern tragedy, a passage of 
more sublimity or pathos, in which so few words express 
so much, yet leave so much more to be imagined by any 
one who has (f a human heart," as the whole of this 
scene in the original exhibits. 

Dante's poem is certainly neither the greatest nor the 
best in the world ; but it is, perhaps, the most extraordi- 
nary one which resolute intellect ever planned, or perse- 
vering talents successfully executed. It stands alone ; 
and must be read and judged according to rules and im- 
munities adapted to its peculiar structure, plot, and 
purpose, formed upon principles affording scope to the 
exercise of the highest powers, with little regard to pre- 
cedent. If these principles, then, have intrinsic excel- 

name ; forgetting, by the way, that in every other case the spirits were 
intangible by him, though they appeared to be bodily tormented. Dell' 
Inferno, xxxii. And towards the friar Alberigo de' Manfredi, who, having 
quarrelled with some of his brethren, under pretence of desiring to be re- 
conciled, invited" them and others to a feast, towards the oonclusion of 
which, at the signal of the fruit being brought in, a band of hired assassins 
rushed upon the guests and murdered the selected victims on the spot ; 
whence arose a saying, when a person had been stabbed, that he had been 
served with some of Alberigo's fruit : towards this wretch Dante (by an 
ambiguous oath and promise to relieve him from a crust of tears which had 
been frozen like a mask over his face), having obtained his name, behaves 
wnh deliberate inhumanity, leaving him as he found him, with this cod 

" E cortesia fu lui esser villano." 

" 'Twas courtesy to play the knave to him." 

DeU' Inferno, canto xxxiJL 
E 2 


lence, and the work be found uniformly consistent with 
them, fulfilling to the utmost the aims of the author, the 
" Divina Commedia" must be allowed to stand among 
the proudest trophies of original genius, challenging, 
encountering, and overcoming unparalleled difficulties. 
Though the fields of action, or rather of vision, are 
nominally Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, the Paradise, 
Purgatory, and Hell of Dante, with all their terrors, and 
splendours, and preternatural fictions, are but represent- 
ations of scenes transacted on earth, and characters that 
lived antecedently or contemporaneously with himself. 
Though altogether out of the world, the whole is of the 
world. Men and women seem fixed in eternal tor- 
ments, passing through purifying flames, or exalted to 
celestial beatitude ; yet in all these situations they are 
what they were; and it is their former history, more than 
their present happiness, hope, or despair, which consti- 
tutes, through a hundred cantos, the interest, awakened 
and kept up by the successive exhibition of more than 
a thousand individual actors and sufferers. Of every one 
of these something terrible or touching is intimated or 
told, briefly at the utmost, but frequently by mere hints of 
narrative or gleams of allusion, which excite curiosity in 
the breast of the reader ; who is surprised at the poet's 
forbearance, when, in the notes of commentators, he 
finds complex, strange, and fearful circumstances, on 
which a modern versifier or novelist would expend 
pages, treated here as ordinary events, on which it would 
be impertinent to dwell. These, in the author's own age, 
were generally understood; the bulk of the materials be- 
ing gathered up during a period of restlessness and con- 
fusion among the republican states of Italy. 

Hence, though the first appearance of the <s Divina 
Commedia," in any intelligible edition, is repulsive from 
the multitude of notes, and the text is not seldom diffi- 
cult and dark with the oracular compression of strong 
ideas in few and pregnant words, yet will the toil and 
patience of any reader be well repaid, who perseveringly 
proceeds but a little way, quietly referring, as occasion may 


require, from the obscurity of the original to the illustra- 
tions below ; for when he returns from the latter to the 
former (as though his own eye had been refreshed with 
new light, the darkness having been in it, and not in the 
verse), what was colourless as a cloud is radiant with 
beauty, and what before was undefined in form becomes 
exquisitely precise and symmetrical, from comprehend- 
ing in so small a compass so vast a variety of thought, 
feeling, or fact. Dante, in this respect, must be studied 
as an author in a dead language by a learner, or rather 
as one who employs a living language on forgotten 
themes; then will his style grow easier and clearer as the 
reader grows more and more acquainted with his sub- 
ject, his manner, and his materials. For whatever be 
the corruptions of the text (which perhaps has never 
been sufficiently collated), the remoteness of the allu- 
sions, and our countrymen's want of that previous know- 
ledge of almost every thing treated upon, which best 
prepares the mind for the perception and highest en- 
joyment of poetical beauty and poetical pleasure, Dante 
will be found, in reality, one of the most clear, minute, 
and accurate writers in sentiment, as he is one of the 
most perfectly natural and graphic painters to the life 
of persons, characters, and actions. His draughts have 
the freedom of etchings, and the sharpness of proof im- 
pressions. His poem is well worth all the pains which 
the most indolent reader may take to master it. 

Ordinary poetry is often striking and captivating at 
first view, but all its merit is at once elicited ; and fre- 
quently that which charmed so much at first becomes 
less and less affecting, less and less denned, the more it 
is examined, till light turns to mist, and mist to shadow 
in the end ; whereas the highest order of poetry that 
which is intellectual the longer it is dwelt upon, the 
lovelier, the nobler, the more delightful it appears, and 
when fully understood remains imperishable in its graces 
and effects ; repetition a thousand times does not im- 
pair it , its creations, like those of nature, familiar, 
E 3 


indeed, as the sun and the stars, are "never less glo- 
rious and beautiful, though daily before us. Dante's 
poetry (extravagant and imaginative as he often may 
be) is thoroughly intellectual; there is no enthusiasm 
of feeling, but there is much of philosophical and theo- 
logical subtlety, and of course much absurdity in some 
of his reveries ; yet his passion is always pure and un- 
affected, his descriptions are daylight realities, and his 
heroes men of flesh and blood. Probably no other work 
of human genius so far exceeds in its development the 
expectation of prejudiced or unprepared readers, as the 
" Divina Commedia;" or performs, in fact, so much 
more than it seems to promise. 

Dante has created a hell, purgatory, and paradise 
of his own ; and, being satisfied with the present world 
as a nursery for his personages, he has peopled his ultra- 
mundane regions with these, assigning to all their abodes 
" sulphureous or ambrosial," or refining those who were 
yet corrigible after death, according to his own pleasure, 
his theological views, and his moral feelings. It must 
be confessed that, whatever were his passions, prejudices, 
or failings, his attachments or antipathies, as an arbiter 
of fate he appears honestly to have distributed justice, to 
the best of his knowledge, to all whom he has cited 
before his tribunal, leaving in the case of every one 
(perhaps) a judgment unimpeachable and unappealable; 
so forcibly does he impress the mind with the truth and 
reality of the evidence of their merit or turpitude, which 
he produces to warrant his sentences. As a man, he is, 
indeed, fierce, splenetic, and indignant at times, es- 
pecially in execrating his countrymen for their profligacy 
and injustice towards himself; yet (though there may 
have been primary motives less noble than the apparent 
ones, at the bottom of his heart, unsuspected even by 
himself,) his anger and his vengeance seem always di- 
rected against those who deserved to be swept from the 
face of the earth, as venal, treacherous, parricidal 
wretches. With the wonders which he beheld in his 
invisible world, in his complicated travels through its 


triple round of labyrinths ; as, in hell, wheel within 
wheel, diminishing downward to the centre; in purgatory, 
circle above circle, terminating in the garden of Eden ; 
and, in his paradise, orb beyond orb, through the 
solar system to the heaven of heavens, where he " pre- 
sumed, an earthly guest, and drew empyreal air;" 
with these he has constructed a poem of a thousand 
pages, exhibiting the greatest diversity of characters, 
scenes, circumstances, and events, that were ever embraced 
in an equal compass ; while all are made perfectly to 
harmonise and conduce to one process, carried on at 
every step of his pilgrimage, namely, the gradual puri- 
fication of the poet himself, by the examples which he 
sees and the lessons which he hears; as well as by the 
toils he undergoes, the pains he endures, and the bliss 
he partakes, in his long and dreary path down into the 
nether regions, where there is no hope ; up the steep 
hill, where, though there is suffering, there is no fear of 
ultimate release ; and on his flight through the " nine- 
enfolded spheres," where all are as happy as they can. 
be in their present station, yet, as they pass from stage 
to stage, rise in capacity and means of enjoyment to 
fulness of felicity in the beatific vision. 

Dante was the very poet, and the " Divina Commedia" 
the very poem, to be expected from the influence of all 
existing circumstances in church and state at the time 
when he flourished. The poet and his age were ho- 
mogeneous, and his song was as truly in season as 
that of the nightingale in spring; the winter of bar- 
barism had broken up, the summer heat of refine- 
ment had not yet come on: a century earlier there 
would have been too much ignorance, a century later 
too much intelligence, to form such a theme and such 
a minstrel ; for though Dante, in any age, must have 
been one of its greatest bards, yet the bard that he 
was he could not have been in any other than that in 
which he lived. 

Dante, as hath already been intimated, is the hero of 
his own poem ; and the " Divina Commedia " is the only 
E 4 


example of an attempt triumphantly achieved, and placed 
beyond the reach of scorn or neglect, wherein, from 
beginning to end, the author discourses concerning him- 
self individually. Had this been done in any other way 
than the consummately simple, delicate, and unobtrusive 
one which he has adopted, the whole would have 
been insufferable egotism, disgusting coxcombry, or op- 
pressive dulness, whereas this personal identity is the 
charm, the strength, the soul of the book : he lives, he 
breathes, he moves through it ; his pulse beats or stands 
still, his eye kindles or fades, his cheek grows pale 
with horror, colours with shame, or burns with in- 
dignation ; we hear his voice, his step, in every page ; 
we see his shape by the flames of hell, his shadow in the 
land where there is no other shadow (" Purgatorio "), 
and his countenance gaining angelic elevation from " col- 
loquy sublime" with glorified intelligences in the pa- 
radise above. Nor does he ever go out of his actual 
character; he is, indeed, the lover from infancy of 
Beatrice, the aristocratic magistrate of a fierce democracy, 
the valiant soldier in the field of Campaldino, the fervent 
patriot in the feuds of Guelfs and Ghibellines, the elo- 
quent and subtle disputant in the schools of theology ; 
the melancholy exile, wandering from court to court, 
depending for bread and shelter on petty princes who 
knew not his worth, except as a splendid captive in 
their train ; and, above all (though not obtrusively so), 
he is the poet anticipating his own assured renown, and 
dispensing at his will honour or infamy to others, whom 
he need but to name, and the sound must be heard to 
the end of time, and echoed from all regions of the globe. 
Dante, in his vision, is Dante as he lived, as he died, 
and as he expected to live in both worlds beyond death, 
an immortal spirit in the one, an unforgotten poet in 
the other. Pride of birth, consciousness of genius, 
religious feeling almost to fanaticism, and the sense of 
wrongs, under which he is alternately inflamed with rage, 
withered with disappointment, or saddened with despair, 
these are continually reminding the reader of the man 


as he was ; stimulating his jaded hope with the bitter 
sweet of revenge, which he could wreak at will upon his 
enemies; and solacing a wounded spirit with the thought 
of fame in possession, which his fellow-citizens could not 
confiscate, and fame in reversion, of which contempo- 
raries could not cut off the entail. 

Yet while he is thus in every point an individual, he 
is at the same time an exemplar of the whole species; 
and he may emphatically say to the reader who can 
follow him in his journeys, receive his inspirations, and 
share in his troubles, anxieties, joys, and disappoint- 
ments : " Am I not a man and a brother ? " Dante, 
though in this sense the hero of his own poem, is any 
thing but a hero, either in the vulgar or the chivalrous 
sense of the term. He is a human being, with all the 
faults, frailties, and imperfections of our common nature, 
as they really existed in himself, and as they more or 
less exist in every other person ; nor can a less sophis- 
ticated character be found in all the volumes of prose and 
rhyme that have appeared since this auto-biographical 
poem. He assumes nothing ; he conceals nothing ; his 
fears, his ignorance, his loves, and his enmities, are all 
undisguisedly set forth, as though he were all the while 
communing with his own heart, without the cowardly 
apprehension of blame, or the secret desire of applause 
from a fellow- creature. He is always, indeed, noble, 
manly, and candid, but travelling continually in company 
of some superior intelligence, Virgil in hell and pur- 
gatory, and Beatrice in purgatory and heaven, he 
always defers to the one or the other in difficulty, doubt, 
or danger, and clings for protection, as well as looks up 
for instruction, with childlike simplicity and docility; 
returning with the most reverent and affectionate gra- 
titude every token of kindness received from either. 

Marvellous and incredible, it must be confessed, are 
many of the stories which he tells; but he tells them with 
the plainness and straight-forwardness of a man who is 
speaking the truth, and nothing else, of his own know- 


In the last cantos of the " Purgatorio/'and throughout 
the " Paradiso/' there is a prodigious putting forth of 
power to describe ineffable and eternal things ; with in- 
exhaustible prodigality of illustration, and transmutation 
of the same symbols, to constitute different gradations 
of blessedness and glory. Of these, however, there are 
scarcely any types except light, colour, sound, and motion, 
variously combined to represent spiritual beings, their 
forms, their occupations, and manner of discoursing ; 
but even amongst such inexpressible, nay, unimaginable 
scenes and passages, the human nature which cleaves to 
the poet, and shows itself, under every transmigration, 
allied to flesh and blood, gives an interest which allegorical 
pictures of invisible realities can never keep up beyond 
the first brilliant impression. Yet the vitality and 
strength of the poem reside chiefly in the first and 
second parts; diminishing just in proportion as the au- 
thor rises above the regions which exhibit the sins and 
sufferings of creatures like ourselves, punished with ever- 
lasting destruction in hell, or " burnt and purged away/' 
through the penal inflictions of purgatory. It may, 
however, be said, with regard to the whole, that no ideal 
beings, ideal scenes, or ideal occurrences, in any poem or 
romance, have ever more perfectly personified truth and 
nature than those in this composition, which, though the 
theatre is figuratively beyond the limits of human action, 
is nevertheless full of such action in its most common as 
well as its most extraordinary forms. 

There is scarcely a decorous attitude of the human 
frame, a look expressive of the most concealed sentiment, 
or a feeling of pain, pleasure, surprise, doubt, fear, agony, 
hope, delight, which is not described with a minuteness 
of discrimination alike curious and admirable ; the poet 
himself frequently being the subject of the same, and 
exciting our sympathy by the lively or poignant remem- 
brance of having ourselves done, looked, felt like him, 
when we were far from being ingenuous enough to ac- 
knowledge the weakness implied. There is scarcely a 
phenomenon in the visible heavens, the earth, the sea. 


and the phases of nature, which he has not presented in 
the most striking manner. In such instances he fre- 
quently descends to the nicest particulars, that he may 
realise the exact view of them which he wishes to be 
taken ; they being necessarily illustrations of invisible 
and preternatural subjects. This leads to the remark, 
that the poem abounds with similes of the greatest va- 
riety, beauty, and elegance ; often, likewise, of the most 
familiar, touching, or grotesque character. Among these, 
birds are favourite images, especially the stork and the 
falcon, the two last that an English poet of the nine- 
teenth century would think of, but which happily remind 
us, as often as they are seen here, of the country of the 
author, while they present pictures of times gone by, 
the stork having long ago deserted our shores, and fal- 
conry, poetical and captivating as it is to the eye and the 
fancy, having been abandoned in the fashionable rage for 
preserves, where game are bred like poultry, and mas- 
sacred by wholesale on field-days. Next to birds, child- 
ren are the darlings, in the similes, of this stern, and 
'harsh, and gloomy being, as he is often, though unjustly, 
represented to have been. Amidst his most dazzling, ter- 
rific, or monstrous creations, these little ones, in all their 
loveliness and hilarity, are introduced, to re-invigorate 
the tired thoughts, and cool the over-heated imagin- 
ation with reminiscence of that which, in this world, may 
be looked upon with the least pain, and which cannot 
be looked upon with pleasure without our being the 
better for it ; the love of children, and the delight of 
seeing them happy, being a test of every other species of 
kindness towards our fellow-creatures. 

It is unnecessary to pursue general criticism further. 
Any analysis of the plot would be preposterous here ; for 
nothing less than a progressive abstract of the whole, with 
examples from every stage, would be satisfactory, or in- 
deed intelligible, to those who are not acquainted with the 
original, or the translation into English by the Reverend 
H. F. Gary, which may be said to fail in nothing except 
the versification and that, perhaps, only in consequence 


of the writer's attention to what constitutes the chief 
merit of his performance, fidelity to the meaning of the 

It was the purpose of the writer of the foregoing 
memoir to have concluded his strictures on the " Di- 
vina Commedia" with a series of newly-translated spe- 
cimens from the same (like the foregoing ones), in the 
various kinds of style for which the author was distin- 
guished, in order to give the English reader some faint 
idea of this poet's very peculiar manner of handling his 
subject, and the general cast of his mind and mode of 
thinking : hut the limits of the present work precluding 
any further extension of this article, these are reserved, 
and may be laid before the public at some future op- 



FRANCESCO PETBARCA was of Florentine extraction, 
and sprung from a respectable family. His proge- 
nitors had been notaries. His great grandfather has ' 
been distinguished for his integrity, benevolence, and 
long life : his youth had been active, his old age was 
serene ; he died in his sleep when more than 100 
years old, an age scarcely ever heard of in Italy. His 
father exercised the same profession as those who had J 
gone before him ; and, being held in great esteem by 
his fellow citizens, he had filled several public offices. 
When the Ghibelines were banished Florence in 1302, 
Petraccolo was included in the number of exiles'; his _< 
property was confiscated, and he retired with his wife, 
Eletta Canigiani, whom he had lately married, to the 
town of Arezzo in Tuscany. Two years after, the Ghi- 
beline exiles endeavoured to reinstate themselves in their 
native city by force of arms, but they failed in their 
enterprise, and were forced to retreat. The attempt 
took place on the night of the 20th of July, 1304 ; and, * 
on returning discomfited on the morrow, Petraccolo 
found that during the intervening hours his wife had, 
after a period of great difficulty and danger, given birth , 
to a son. The child was baptized Francesco, and the 
surname of di Petracco was added, as was the custom 
in those days, to distinguish him as the son of Petracco. 
Orthography, at that time, was very inexact ; and the 
poet's ear for harmony caused him to give a more eu- 
phonious sound to his patronymic : he wrote his name 
Petrarca, and by this he was known during his life, and ^ 
to all posterity. 

When the child was seven months old his mother 1305. 
was permitted to return from banishment, and she 
established herself at a country house belonging to 
her husband near Ancisa, a small town fifteen mile* 


from Florence. The infant, who, at his birth, it was 
supposed, would not survive, was exposed to imminent 
peril during this journey. In fording a rapid stream, 
the man who had charge of him, carried him, wrapped 
in his swaddling clothes, at the end of a stick ; he fell 
from his horse, and the habe slipped from the fastenings 
into the water ; hut he was saved, for how could Pe- 
trarch die until he had seen Laura ? His mother re- 
mained for seven years at Ancisa. Petraccolo meanwhile 
wandered from place to place, seeking to earn a sub- 
sistence, and endeavouring to forward the Ghibeline 
cause. He visited his wife by stealth on various oc- 
casions, and she gave birth during this period to two 
sons ; one of whom died in infancy, and the other, 
Gherardo, or Gerard, was the companion and friend of 
Francesco for many years. 

1312. When Petrarch was eight years of age, his parents 
removed to Pisa, and remained there for nearly a year ; 
when, finding his party entirely ruined, Petraccolo re- 
solved to emigrate to Avignon ; for, the pope having 
fixed his residence in that city, it became a resort for 
the Italians, who found it advantageous to follow his 

1313. court. Petraccolo embarked with his wife and two 
JEtat. children at Leghorn, and proceeded by sea to Marseilles. 

9- They were wrecked and exposed to great danger when 
not far from port ; but landing at last in safety, they 
J proceeded to Avignon. The eyes of the young Pe- 
trarch had become familiar with the stately cities of his 
native country : for the last year he had lived at Pisa, 
where the marble palaces of the Lung' Arno, and the 
free open squares surrounded by majestic structures, 
were continually before him. Thi squalid aspect of the 
ill-built streets of Avignon were in painful contrast; 
- and thus that veneration for Italy, and contempt for 
transalpine countries, which exercised a great influence 
over his future life, was early implanted in Petrarch's 

The papal court, and consequent concourse of stran- 
gers, filled Avignon to overflowing, and rendered it an 


expensive place of residence. Accordingly Petraccolo 1315. 
quitted it for Carpentras, a small rural town twelve *** 
miles distant. A Genoese named Settimo, lately arrived 
at Avignon with his wife and young son, had formed 
an intimacy with Petraccolo, and joined him in this 
fresh migration. 

The youth of Petrarch was obscure in point of for- 
tune, hut it was attended by all the happiness that * 
springs from family concord, and the excellent cha- 
racter of his parents. His father was a man of probity - 1 
and talent, attentive to his son's education and improve- 
ment, and, at the same time, kind and indulgent. His 
mother was distinguished for the virtues that most 
adorn her sex ; she was domestic, and affectionate in her 
disposition ; and he had two youthful friends, in his 
brother Gerard and Guido Settimo, whom he tenderly 
loved. Add to this, he studied under Convennole, a 
kind-hearted man, to whom he became warmly attached. 
Under his care, and during several visits to Avignon, 
Petrarch learned as much of grammar, dialectics, and 
rhetoric, as suited his age, or was taught in the schools 
which he frequented ; and how little that was, any one 
conversant with the learning of those times can readily 

At the age of fifteen Petrarch was sent to study at 1319. 
the university of Montpellier, then frequented by a vast 
concourse of students. Petraccolo intended his son to 
pursue the study of the law, as the profession best suited 
to insure his reputation and fortune ; but to this pur- 
suit Francesco was invincibly repugnant. " It was not," 
he tells us, in the account he wrote for the information 
of Posterity, " that I was not pleased with the venerable 
authority of the laws, full, as they doubtless are, of the 
spirit of ancient Rome, but because their use was de- 
praved by the wickedness of man ; and it was tedious 
to learn that by which I could not profit without dis- 
honour." Petraccolo was alarmed by the dislike shown. 

Epist ad Posterit 


by his son for the career for which he destined him, 
and hy the taste he displayed for literature. He made 
a journey to Montpellier, reproached him for his idle. 
^ ness, and seizing on the precious manuscripts, which 
the youth vainly endeavoured to hide, threw them into 
the fire : but the anguish and cries of Petrarch moved 
him to repent his severity : he snatched the remnants of 
Virgil and Cicero from the flames, and gave them back, 
bidding him find consolation in the one, and encourage- 
ment in the other, to pursue his studies. 
1323. He was soon after sent to Bologna. The chairs- of 
^tat. this university were filled by the ablest professors of the 
*9- age; and, under them, Petrarch made considerable pro- 
gress in the study of the law, moved to this exertion, 
doubtless, by the entreaties of his excellent father. He 
proved that indolence was not the cause of his aversion 
to this profession. His master of civil law, Cino da 
^ Pistoia, gives most honourable testimony of his industry 
and talents. " I quickly discovered and appreciated 
your genius," he says, in a letter written some time after, 
" and treated you rather like a beloved son than as a 
pupil. You returned my affection, and repaid me by 
observance and respect, and thus gained a reputation 
among the professors and students for morality and 
prudence. Your progress in study will never be for- 
gotten in the university. In the space of four years you 
learned by heart the entire body of civil law, with as 
much facility as another would have acquired the ro- 
mance of Launcelot and Ginevra." 

1326. After three years spent at Bologna, Petrarch was 
JEtat. recalled to France by the death of his father. Soon 
22 ' after his mother died also, and he and his brother were 
left entirely to their own guidance, with very slender 
means, and those diminished by the dishonesty of those 
whom their father had named as trustees to their for- 
tune. Under these circumstances Petrarch entirely 
. abandoned law, as it occurred to both him and his 
brother that the clerical profession was their best re- 
source in a city where the priesthood reigned supreme. 


They resided at Avignon, and became the favourites > 
and companions of the ecclesiastical and lay nobles who 
formed the papal court, to a degree which, in after- 
times, excited Petrarch's wonder, though the self-suf- 
ficiency and ardour of youth then blinded him to the 
peculiar favour with which he was regarded. His ta- 
lents and accomplishments were, of course, the cause of ** 
this distinction ; besides that his personal advantages 
were such as to prepossess every one in his favour. He 
was so handsome as frequently to attract observation as J 
he passed along the streets : his complexion was between 
dark and fair ; he had sparkling eyes, and a vivacious 
and pleasing expression of countenance. His person 
was rather elegant than robust; and he increased the 
gracefulness of his appearance by a sedulous attention. 4 
to dress. " Do you remember," he wrote to his brother 
Gerard, many years after, " our white robes ; and our 
chagrin when their studied elegance suffered the least J 
injury, either in the disposition of their folds, or in 
their spotless cleanliness ? do you remember our tight 
shoes and how we bore the tortures which they inflicted 
without a murmur? and our care lest the breezes should 
disturb the arrangement of our hair ? " 

Such tastes befit the season of youth, which, always 
in extremes, is apt otherwise to diverge into negligence 
and disorder. But Petrarch could not give up his en- 
tire mind to frivolity and the pleasures of society : he "* 
sought the intercourse of the wise, and his warm and 
tender heart attached itself with filial or fraternal 
affection to his good and learned friends. Among these 
was John of Florence, canon of Pisa, a venerable man, -I 
devoted to learning, and passionately attached to his 
native country. With him Petrarch could recur to his 
beloved studies and antique manuscripts. Sometimes, 
however, the young man was seized with the spirit of 
despondency. During such a mood, he had one day re- 
course to his excellent friend, and poured out his heart 
in complaints. " You know," he said, " the pains I 
have taken to distinguish myself from the crowd, and 

VOL. i. p 


to acquire a reputation for knowledge. You have often 
told me that I am responsible to God for the use I 
make of my talents; and your praises have spurred me 
on to exertion : but I know not why, even at the mo- 
ment when I hoped for success in my endeavours, I 
find myself dispirited, and the sources of my under- 
standing dried up. I stumble at every step ; and in my 
despair I have recourse to you. Advise me. Shall I 
give up my studies ? shall I enter on another career ? 
Have pity on me, my father: raise me from the frightful 
condition into which I have fallen." 

Petrarch shed tears as he spoke; but the old man 
encouraged him with sagacity and kindness. He told 
him that his best hopes for improvement must be 
founded on the discovery he had made of his ignorance. 
" The veil is now raised," he said, " and you perceive 
the darkness which was before concealed by the pre- 
sumption of youth. Embark upon the sea before you : 
the further you advance, the more immense ,it will ap- 
pear ; but do not be deterred. Follow the course which 
I have counselled you to take, and be persuaded that 
God will not abandon you." 

These words re-assured Petrarch, and gave fresh 
strength to his good intentions. The incident is worthy 
of record, as giving a lively picture of an ingenuous and 
ambitious mind struggling with and overcoming the 
toils of learning. 

At this period commenced his friendship with Gia- 
como Colonna, who had resided at Bologna at the same 
time with him, and had even then been attracted by 
his prepossessing appearance and irreproachable conduct, 
though he did not seek to be acquainted with him till 
their return to Avignon. 

The family of Colonna was the most illustrious of 
; Rome : tfiey had fallen under the displeasure, and in- 
curred the interdict, of pope Boniface VIII. who confis- 
cated their estates and drove them into exile. The head of 
the family was Stefano, a man of heroic and magnanimous 
mind. He wandered for many years a banished man 


in France and Germany, and a price was set on his 
head. On one occasion, a band of armed men, desirous 
of earning the ill reward attendant on delivering him up 
to his enemies, seized on him, and asked his name, under 
the belief that he would fear to acknowledge himself. 
He replied, " I am Stefano Colonna, a citizen of Rome;" 
and the mercenaries into whose hands he had fallen, 
struck by his majesty and resolution, set him free. On 
another occasion, he appeared suddenly in Italy, on a 
field of battle, to aid his own party against the papal 
forces. Being surrounded and pressed upon by his foes, 
one of his friends exclaimed, " O, Stefano, where is 
your fortress?" He placed his hand upon his heart, and 
with a smile replied, " Here ! " This illustrious man 
had a family of ten children, all distinguished by their 
virtues and talents. The third among them was Giacomo. 
Petrarch describes his friend in glowing colours7 " He 
was," he says, " generous, faithful, and true ; modest, 
though endowed with splendid talents ; handsome in 
person, yet of irreproachable conduct : he possessed, 
moreover, the gift of eloquence to an extraordinary de- 
gree ; so that he held the hearts of men in his hands, 
and carried them along with him by force of words." 
Petrarch was readily ensnared in the net of his fascin- 
ations. Giacomo introduced his new friend to his brother, 
the cardinal Giovanni Colonna, under whose roof he 
subsequently spent many years, and who acted towards 
him, not as a master, but rather as a partial brother.* 
Petrarch records the kindness of his patrons, in the lan- 
guage of enthusiastic gratitude. Doubtless, they deserved 
the encomiums of his free spirit, a spirit to be subdued 
only by the power of affection. We must, however, 
consider them peculiarly fortunate in being able to 
command the society of one whose undeviating integrity, 
whose gentleness, and fidelity, adorned talents which 
have merited eternal renown. The peculiar charm of 
Petrarch's character is warmth of heart, and a native 

Epist ad Posterit 
F 2 


ingenuousness of disposition, which readily laid bare 
his soul to those around : there was nothing factitious, 
nothing put on for show, in the temper of his mind; he 
desired to be great and good in God's eyes, and in those 
of his friends, for conscience sake, and as the worthy 
aim of a Christian man. He did not, therefore, wish 
** to hide his imperfections ; but rather sought them 
out, that he might bring a remedy ; and betrayed the 
uneasiness they occasioned, with the utmost simplicity 
and singleness of mind. When to this delightful frank- 
J ness were added splendid talents, the charm of poetry, 
so highly valued in the country of the Troubadours, an 
affectionate and generous disposition, vivacious and en- 
gaging manners, and an attractive exterior ; we cannot 
wonder that Petrarch was the darling of his age, the 
associate of its greatest men, and the man whom princes 
delighted to honour. 

Hitherto the feelings of friendship had engrossed 

' him : love had not yet robbed him of sleep, nor dimmed 

his eyes with tears ; and he wondered to behold such 

weakness in others.* Now at the age of twenty-three, 

after the fire of mere boyhood had evaporated, he felt 

the power of a violent and inextinguishable passion. 

1327. At six in the morning, on the 6th of April, A. D. 1327 

JEtat. ^h e o ft en fondly records the exact year, day, and hour), 

_ 23 ' on occasion of the festival of Easter, he visited the 

/v.v j church o f gainte Claire at Avignon, and beheld, for the 

- V - first time, Laura de Sade. She was just twenty years 

of age, and in the bloom of beauty, a beauty so 

touching and heavenly, so irradiated by purity and 

smiling iiinpcence, and so adorned by gentleness and 

modesty, that the first sight stamped the image in the 

poet's heart, never hereafter to be erased. 

Laura was the daughter of Audibert de Noves, a noble 

and .a knight : she lost her father in her early youth ; 

J and at the age of seventeen, her mother married her to 

Hugh de Sade, a young noble only a few years older 

Canzone iv. 


than his bride. She was distinguished by her rank and 
fortune, but more by her loveliness, her sweetness, and J 
the untainted purity of her life and manners in the 
midst of a society noted for its licentiousness.* Now she 
is known as the subject of Petrarch's verses ; as the woman J 
who inspired an immortal passion, and, kindling into 
living fire the dormant sensibility of the poet, gave 
origin to the most beautiful and refined, the most pas- 
sionate, and yet the most delicate, amatory poetry that 
exists in the world. 

Petrarch beheld the loveliness and sweetness of the 
young beauty, and was transfixed. He sought acquaint- ' 
ance with her; and while the manners of the times pre- 
vented his entering her house f, he enjoyed many 
opportunities of meeting her in society, and of conversing j 
with her. He would have declared his love, but her 
reserve enforced silence. " She opened my breast," he 
writes, " and took my heart into her hand, saying, j 
' Speak no word of this.' " Yet the reverence inspired 
by her modesty and dignity was not always sufficient 
to restrain her lover : being alone with her, and she 
appearing more gracious than usual, Petrarch, on one J 
occasion, tremblingly and fearfully confessed his passion, 
but she, with altered looks, replied, " I am not the 
person you take me for ! " Her displeasure froze the 
very heart of the poet, so that he fled from her presence 
in grief and dismay4 

* Secretum Francisci Petrarch*. f Abb de Sade. 

$ Canzone iv. In this, one of the most beautiful of his canzoni, Pe. 
trarch narrates the early story of his love. In it occur the following 
lines : 

" I' segui' tanto avanti il mio desire, 
CIV un dl cacciando si com' io solea, 
Mi mossi ; e quella fera bella e cruda 
In una Ion tc ignuda 
Si stava, quanto '1 Sol piu forte ardea. 
Io, perchfe d 1 altra vista non m' appago, 
Stetti a mirarla : ond' ella ebbe vergogna, 
E per fame vendetta, o per celarse, 

I.' acqua nel viso con le mane mi sparse. 

o diro, forse e par 
< 'li' i, senti, trarmi della propria imago ; 

Vero diro, forse e parra menzogna : 

Ed un cervo solitario, e vago, 

Di selva in selva ratio mi transforrno, 

Ed ancor de' miei can' fuggo Io stormo." 

The abbe 1 de Sade, commenting on this poem with true French drynesa 
F 3 


No attentions on his part could make any impression 
on her steady and virtuous mind. While love and youth 
drove him on, she remained impregnable and firm ; and 
when she found that he still rushed wildly forward, she 
preferred forsaking, to following him to the precipice 
down which he would have hurried her. Meanwhile, as 
he gazed on her angelic countenance, and saw purity 
painted on it, his love grew as spotless as herself. Love 
transforms the true lover into a resemblance of the object 
of his passion. In a town, which was the asylum of 
vice, calumny never breathed a taint upon Laura's 
name : her actions, her words, the very expression of her 
countenance, and her slightest gestures were replete 
with a modest reserve combined with sweetness, and 
won the applause of all.* 

The passion of Petrarch was purified and exalted at 
the same time. Laura filled him with noble aspirations, 
and divided him from the common herd. He felt that 
her influence made him superior to vulgar ambition; and 
rendered him wise, true, and great. She saved him in 
the dangerous period of youth, and gave a worthy aim 
to all his endeavours. The manners of his age permitted 
one solace ; a Platonic attachment was the fashion of 
the day. The troubadours had each his lady to adore, 
to wait upon, and to celebrate in song ; without its being 
supposed that she made him any return beyond a gra- 
cious acceptance of his devoirs, and the allowing him to 
make her the heroine of his verses. Petrarch endeavoured 
to merge the living passion of his soul into this airy and 
unsubstantial devotion. Laura permitted the homage : 
she perceived his merit, and was proud of his admir- 

of fancy, supposes that the scene actually occurred, and would point 
out the very spot in the environs of Avignon ; not perceiving that the 
poet, in an exquisite allegory, founded on the story of Acteon, describes 
the wanderings of his mind, and the reveries in which he indulged concern- 
ing her he loved ; and that both lady and fountain are the creations of his 
imagination, which so duped and absorbed him; that passion changed him 
to a solitary being, and his thoughts became the pursuers that perpetually 
followed and tormented him. 

* I adopt Petrarch's own words, here and elsewhere, translated from the 
" Secretum Francisci Petrarchse." 


ation ; she felt the truth of his affection, and indulged 
the wish of preserving it and her own honour at the same 
time. Without her inflexibility, this had been a dan- 
gerous experiment : but she always kept her lover dis- ^ 
tant from her ; rewarding his reserve by smiles, and 
repressing by frowns all the overflowings of his heart. 

By her resolute severity, she incurred the danger 
of ceasing to be the object of his attachment, and of * 
losing the gift of an immortal name, which he has con- 
ferred upon her. But Petrarch's constancy was proof 
against hopelessness and time. He had too fervent an 
admiration of her qualities, ever to change : he controlled 
the vivacity of his feelings, and they became deeper 
rooted. The struggle cost him his peace of mind. From - 
the moment that love had seized upon his heart, the 
tenor of his life was changed. He fed upon tears, 
and took a fatal pleasure in complaints and sighs ; his 
nights became sleepless, and the beloved name dwelt 
upon his lips during the hours of darkness. He desired J 
death, and sought solitude, devouring there his own 
heart. He grew pale and thin, and the flower of youth 
faded before its time. The day began and closed in 
sorrow ; the varieties of her behaviour towards him 
alone imparted joy or grief. He strove to flee and to 
forget ; but her memory became, and for ever remained, 
the ruling law of his existence.* 

From this time his poetic life is dated. He probably J 
composed verses before he saw Laura; but none have been 
preserved except such as celebrate his passion. How soon, 
after seeing her, he began thus to pour forth his full heart, 
cannot be told ; probably love, which turns the man of the 
most prosaic temperament into a versifier, impelled him, 
at its birth, to give harmonious expression to the rush of 
thought and feeling that it created. Latin was in use - 
among the learned ; but ladies, unskilled in a dead 
language, were accustomed to be sung by the Trouba- 
dours in their native Provencal dialect. Petrarch loved 

* Secretum Francisci Petrarchae. 
F 4 


Italy, and all things Italian he perceived the melody, 
the grace, the earnestness, which it could embody. 
The residence of the popes at Avignon caused it to be 
generally understood ; and in the language of his native 
J Florence, the poet addressed his lady, though she was 
born under a less favoured sky. His sonnets and can- 
zoni obtained the applause they deserved : they became 
popular : and he, no doubt, hoped that the description 
of his misery, his admiration, his almost idolatry, would 
gain him favour in Laura's heart. 

Petrarch had always a great predilection for travelling: 
- the paucity of books rendered this a mode, in his eyes, 
almost the only mode, for the attainment of the know- 
ledge for which his nature craved. The first journey he 
made after his return from Bologna, was to accompany 
J Giacomo Colonna on his visit to the diocese of Lombes, 
of which he had lately been installed bishop. Lombes 
is a small town of Languedoc, not far from Thoulouse ; 
it had been erected into a bishopric by pope John XXII., 
who conferred it on Giacomo Colonna, in recompence 
of an act of intrepid daring successfully achieved in his 
1330. behalf. It was the summer season, and the travellers 
proceeded through the most picturesque part of France, 
among the Pyrenees, to the banks of the Garonne. Be- 
sides Petrarch, the bishop was accompanied by Lello, 
the son of Pietro Stefani, a Roman gentleman ; and a 
Frenchman named Louis. The friendship that Petrarch 
formed with both, on this occasion, continued to the 
end of their lives : many of his familiar letters are ad- 
dressed to them under the appellations of Laelius and So- 
crates ; for Petrarch's contempt of his own age gave him 
that tinge of pedantry which caused him to confer on 
his favourites the names of the ancients. Lello was a 
man of education and learning ; he had long lived 
under the protection of the Colonna family, by the 
members of which he was treated as a son or brother. 
The transalpine birth of Louis made Petrarch call him a 
barbarian ; but he found him cultivated and refined, 
endowed with a lively imagination, a gay temper, and 


addicted to music and poetry. In the society of 
these men, Petrarch passed a divine summer ; it was 
one of those periods in his life, towards which his 
thoughts frequently turned in after-times with yearning 
and regret.* 

On his return from Lombes, Petrarch became an in- 
mate in the house of cardinal Colonna. He had leisure to 
indulge in his taste for literature : he was unwearied in 
the labour of discovering, collating, and copying ancient 
manuscripts. To him we owe the preservation of many - 
Latin authors, which, buried in the dust of monastic 
libraries, and endangered by the ignorance of their 
monkish possessors, had been wholly lost to the world, 
but for the enthusiasm and industry of a few learned 
men, among whom Petrarch ranks pre-eminent. He 
thought no toil burthensome, however arduous, which 
drew from oblivion these monuments of former wisdom. 
Often he would not trust to the carelessness of co- 
pyists, but transcribed these works with his own hand. 
His library was lost to the world, after his death, f 
through the culpable negligence of the republic of Ve- 
nice, to which he had given it ; but there still existd, > 
in the Laurentian library of Florence, the orations of 
Cicero, and his letters to Atticus in Petrarch's hand- 

His ardour for acquiring knowledge was unbounded, * 
the society of a single town, and the few books that 
he possessed, could not satisfy him. He believed that 
travelling was the best school for learning. His great 
desire was to visit Rome ; and a journey hither was pro- 
jected by him and the bishop of Lombes. Delays inter- 
vening, which prevented their immediate departure, 
Petrarch made the tour of France, Flanders, and Bra- 1331. 
bant : " For which journey," he says, " whatever cause <&tat. 
may have been alleged, the real motive was a fervent ^* 
desire of extending my experience."t He first visited 
Paris, and took pleasure in satisfying himself of the J 

Epist ad Posterit f Ibid. 


truth or falsehood of the accounts he had heard of that 
city. His curiosity was insatiable; when the day 
did not suffice, he devoted the night to his enquiries. 
He found the city ill built and disagreeable, but he was 
pleased with the inhabitants ; describing them, as a 
traveller might of the present day, as gay, and fond of 
society ; facile and animated in conversation, and amia- 
ble in their assemblies and feasts ; eager in their search 
after amusement, and driving away care by pleasure ; 
prompt to discover and to ridicule the faults of others, 
and covering their own with a thick veil.* 

From Paris, Petrarch continued his travels through 
Liege, Aix-la-Chapelle, and Cologne. In all places he 
searched for ancient manuscripts. At Liege he dis- 
covered two orations of Cicero, but could not find any one 
capable of copying them in the whole town : it was with 
difficulty that he procured some yellow and pale ink, with 
which he transcribed them himself, t From Cologne 
he turned his steps homeward, passing through Ar- 
dennes on his way to Lyons. His heart warmed at the 
expectation of returning to his friends ; and the image 
of Laura took possession of his imagination. Whilst 
wandering alone through the wild forest, which armed 
men feared to traverse, no idea of danger occurred to 
him ; love occupied all his thoughts : the form of Laura 
flitted among the trees ; and the waving branches, and 
the song of birds, and the murmuring streams, made her 
movements and her voice present to his senses with all 
the liveliness of reality. Twilight closed in, and im- 
parted a portion of dismay, till, emerging from the dark 
trees, he beheld the Rhone, which threaded the plains 
towards the native town of the lady of his love ; and at 
sight of the familiar river, a joyous rapture took place 
of gloom. Two of the most graceful of his sonnets were 
written to describe the fantastic images that haunted 
him as he traversed the forest, and the kindling of his 
soul when, emerging from its depths, he was, as it were, 

* Epist ad Posterit. t Epist Fam. 


serenely -welcomed by the delightful country and be- 
loved river which appeared before him.* 

At Lyons a disappointment awaited him : he met, on 
his arrival/ a servant of the Colonna family, whom he 
eagerly questioned concerning his friends; and heard, to 
his infinite mortification, that Giacomo had departed for J 
Italy, without waiting for his return. Deeply hurt by this 
apparent neglect, he wrote a letter to the bishop, full of 
bitter reproaches, which he enclosed to cardinal Colonna, 
to be forwarded to his brother ; while he delayed some- 
what his homeward journey, spending some weeks at 
Lyons. He was absent from Avignon, on this occasion, 
'scarcely more than three months. 

On his return, he found that Giacomo Colonna was * 
not to blame ; he having repaired to Rome by command 
of the pope, that he might pacify the discontented citi- 
zens, and quell the disturbances occasioned by the in- 
surgent nobles. Petrarch did not immediately join his 
friend: he had a duty to perform towards cardinal 
Colonna ; and the cEains which Laura threw around * 
him, made him slow to quit a city which she inhabited. 
At length he embarked, and proceeded by sea to Civita 1335 
Vecchia. The troubled state of the country around ^ Etat 
Rome rendered it unsafe for a solitary traveller. Petrarch " 
took refuge in the romantic castle of Capranica, and * 
wrote to his friends, announcing his arrival. They came 
instantly to welcome and escort him. Petrarch at length 
reached the city of his dreams. His excited imagination 
had painted the fallen mistress of the world in splendid 
colours ; and, warned by his friends, he had feared dis- 
appointment. But the sight of Rome produced no such J 
effect : he was too real a poet, not to look with awe and 
reverence on the mighty and beautiful remains which 
meet the wanderer's eye at every turn in the streets of 
Rome. Petrarch's admiration grew, instead of di- 

* Sonnets 53, 54. The Abb de Sade notices these sonnets. They prove 
that the order of time it not preserved in the arrangement of his sonnets ; as 
his letters prove that this journey through the forest of Ardennes preceded 
many events recorded in poems which are represented as if of an earlier date. 


minishing. He found the eternal city greater and more 
majestic in her ruins than he had before figured ; and,, 
instead of wondering how it was that she had given 
laws to the whole earth, he was only surprised that her 
supremacy had not been more speedily acknowledged.* 
He found inexhaustible gratification in contemplating 
js the magnificent ruins scattered around. He was accom- 
panied in his researches by Giovanni da San Vito, brother 
of Stefano Colonna, who, enveloped in the exile of his 
family, had wandered for many years in Persia, Arabia, 
and Egypt. Stefano Colonna himself resided in the 
capital; and Petrarch found in him an image of those 
majestic heroes who illustrated the annals of ancient 

On leaving Italy, Petrarch gratified his avidity for 
v ' travel by a long journey through Spain to Cadiz, and 
northward, by the sea- shore, as far as the coasts of 
England. He went to escape from the chains which 
awaited him at Avignon ; and, seeking a cure for the 
wounds which his heart had received, he endeavoured 
* to obtain health and liberty by visiting distant countries. 
It is thus that he speaks of this tour in his letters. 
But, though he went far, he did not stay long ; for, on 
the l6th of August of the same year, he returned to 

u He came back with the same feelings ; and grew more 
and more dissatisfied with himself, and the state of agi- 
tation and slavery to which the vicinity of Laura reduced 
him. The young wife was now the mother of a family, 
and more disinclined than ever to tarnish her good name, 
or to endanger her peace, by the sad vicissitudes of illicit 
passion. Disturbed, and struggling with himself, Pe- 
trarch sought various remedies.for the ill that beset him. 
April Among other attempts to divert his thoughts, he made 
20. an excursion to Mont Ventoux, one of the highest moun- 
J336. tains O f E ur0 p e . w hich, placed in a country where every 
32 fc * other hill is much lower, commands a splendid and ex- 

Epist Fam. 


tensive view. There is a letter of his to his friend and 
spiritual director, father Dionisio Robertis, of San Se- 
polcro, whom he knew in Paris, giving an account of the 
expedition. It was a work of labour to climb the pre- 
cipitous mountain ; with difficulty, and after many 
fatiguing deviations from the right road, he reached its 
summit. He gazed around on the earth, spread like a 
map below ; he fixed his eyes on the Alps, which di- J 
vided him from Italy ; and then, reverting to himself, 
he thought "Ten years ago you quitted Bologna: 
how are you changed since then ! " The purity of the 
air, and the vast prospect before him, gave subtlety and 
quickness to his perceptions. He reflected on the 
agitation of his soul, but not yet arrived in port, he felt 
that he ought not to let his thoughts dwell on the 
tempests that shook his nature. He thought of her he 
loved, not, as before, with hope and animation, but with 
a sad struggling love, for which he blushed. He would 
have changed his feeling to hate ; but such an attempt 
were vain : he felt ashamed and desperate, as he repeated 
the verse of Ovid 

" Odero, si potero; si non, invitus amabo." 

For three years this passion had reigned over him with- 
out control : he now combated it ; but his struggles 
saddened, while they sobered him. Again he turned his 
eyes from his own heart to the scene around. As the 
sun declined, he regarded the vast expanse of the distant 
Mediterranean, the long chain of mountains which di. 
vides France from Spain, and the Rhone which flowed 
at his feet. He feasted his eyes long on this glorious 
spectacle, while pious emotions filled his bosom. He had 
taken with him (for Petrarch was never without a book) 
the volume of St. Augustin's Confessions : he opened 
it by chance, and his eyes fell on the following 
passage : " Men make journeys to visit the summits 
of mountains, the waves of the sea, the course of rivers, 
and the immensity of ocean, while they neglect their 
own souls." Struck by the coincidence, Petrarch turned 


his thoughts inward, and prayed that he might be en- 
abled to vanquish himself. The moon shone upon their 
descent from the mountain (he was . accompanied by 
his brother Gerard, whom he had selected from among 
his friends to join him in his excursion) ; and arriving 
at Maula^ene, a town at the foot of Mont Ventoux, 
Petrarch relieved his mind by pouring out his heart in 
a letter to Dionisio Robertis. 

. The immediate result of the reflections thus awakened, 
was his retirement to Vaucluse. When a boy, he had 
visited this picturesque valley and its fountain, in com- 
pany with his father, mother, and brother. He had then 
been charmed by its beauty and seclusion : and now, 
weary of travelling, and resolved to fly from Laura, he 
took refuge in the solitude he could here command. 

He bought a small house and field, removed his books, 
and established himself. Since then Vaucluse has been 
often visited for his sake-; and he who was enchanted 
by its loneliness and beauty, has described, in letters and 
verses, with fond and glowing expressions, the charm 
that it possessed for him. The valley is narrow, as its 
name testifies shut in by high and craggy hills ; the 
river Sorgue traverses its depth ; and on one side, a vast 
cavern in the precipitous rock presents itself, from 
which the fountain flows, that is the source of the 
river. Within the cave, the shadows are black as night ; 
the hills are clothed by umbrageous trees, under whose 
shadow the tender grass, starred by innumerable flowers, 
offers agreeable repose. The murmur of the torrent is 
perennial : that, and the song of the birds, are the only 
sounds heard. Such was the retreat that the poet chose. 
He saw none but the peasants who took care of his 
house and tended his little farm. The only woman near 
was the hard-working wife of the peasant, old and 
withered. No sounds of music visited his ears : he 
heard, instead, the carolling of the birds, and the brawling 
waters. Often he remained in silence from morning 
till night, wandering among the hills while the sun was 
yet low ; and taking refuge, during the heat of the day, 


in his shady garden, which, sloping down towards the 
Sorgue, was terminated on one side by inaccessible 
rocks. At night, after performing his clerical duties 
(for he was canon of Lombes), he rambled among the 
hills ; often entering, at midnight, the cavern, whose 
gloom, even during the day, struck the soul with awe. 

The peasantry about him were poor and hard- 
working. His food was usually black bread ; and he was J 
so abstemious, that the servant he brought with him 
from Avignon quitted him, unable to endure the solitude 
and privations of his retreat. He was then waited on 
by the neighbouring cottager, a fisherman, whose life had 
been spent among fountains and rivers, deriving his sub- 
sistence from the rocks. "To call this man faithful," say s _, 
Petrarch, " is a tame expression : he was fidelity itself." 
Without being able to read, he revered and cherished the 
books his master loved ; and, all rude and illiterate, his 
pious regard for the poet raised him almost to the rank 
of a friend. His wife was yet more rustic. Her skin - 
was burned by the sun till it resembled nothing human. 
She was humble, faithful, and laborious ; passing her 
life in the fields, working under the noonday sun ; while 
the evening was dedicated to indoor labour. She never 
complained, nor ever showed any mark of discontent. 
She slept on straw : her food was the coarsest black 
bread ; her drink water, in which she mingled a little 
wine, as sour as vinegar. 

It was here that Petrarch hoped to subdue his passion, * 
and to forget Laura. " Fool that I was !" he exclaims in 
after-life, " not to have remembered the first school- 
boy lesson that solitude is the nurse of love !" How, ( 
with his thoughts for his sole companions, preying per- 
petually on his own heart, could he forget her who 
occupied him exclusively in courts and cities? And 
thus he tells, in musical and thrilling accents, how, 
amidst woods, and hills, and murmuring waves, her 
image was painted on every object, and contemplated by 
him till he forgot himself to stone, more dead than the 
living rocks among which he wandered. It is almost 


impossible to translate Petrarch's poetry ; for his suhtle 
and delicate thoughts, when generalised, seem common- 
place ; and his harmony and grace, which have never 
heen equalled, are inimitable. The only translations 
which retain the spirit 'of the original, are by lady 
Dacre ; and we extract her version of one of the can- 
zoni, as a specimen of his style, and as affording a vivid 
picture of his wild melancholy life among the solitary 

i " From hill to hill I roam, from thought to thought, 

7 y "With Love my guide ; the beaten path 1 fly, 

/ For there in vain the tranquil life is sought : 

If 'mid the waste well forth a lonely rill, 

Or deep embosom'd a low valley lie, 
In its calm shade my trembling heart is still ; 
And there, if Love so will, 
I smile, or weep, or fondly hope or fear, 
While on my varying brow, that speaks the soul, 
The wild emotions roll, 

Now dark, now bright, as shifting skies appear; 
That whosoe'er has proved the lover's state 
Would say, ' He feels the flame, nor knows his future fate.' 

" On mountains high, in forests drear and wide, 

I find repose, and from the throng'd resort 

Of man turn fearfully my eyes aside ; 

At each lone step thoughts ever new arise 

Of her I love, who oft with cruel sport 

Will mock the pangs I bear, the tears, the sighs ; 

Yet e'en these ills I prize, 

Though bitter, sweet nor would they were removed ; 

For my heart whispers me, ' Love yet has power 

To grant a happier hour : 

Perchance, though self-despised, thou yet art loved.' 

E'en then my breast a passing sigh will heave,. 
Ah! when, or how, may I a hope so wild believe? 

" Where shadows of high rocking pines dark wave, 
I stay my footsteps ; and on some rude stone, 
With thought intense, her beauteous face engrave : 
Roused from the trance, my bosom bathed I find 
With tears, and cry, ' Ah ! whither thus alone 
Hast thou far wander'd ? and whom left behind ?' 
But as with fixed mind 
On this fair image I impassion'd rest, 
And, viewing her, forget awhile my ills, 
Love my rapt fancy fills ; 
In its own error sweet the soul is blest," 
While all around so bright the visions glide; 

O ! might the cheat endure, I ask not aught beside. 

" Her form portray'd within the lucid stream 
Will oft appear, or on the verdant lawn, 
Or glossy beech, or fleecy cloud, will gleam 
So lovely fair, that Leda's self might say, 
Her Helen sinks eclipsed, as at the dawn 
A star when cover'd by the solar ray : 
And, as o'er wilds I stray, 
Where the eye nought but savage nature meets, 


There Fancy most her brightest tints employs ; 
But when rude truth destroys 
The loved illusion of those dreamed sweets, 
I sit me down on the cold rugged stone, 
Less cold, less dead than I, and think and weep alone. 

" Where the huge mountain rears his brow sublime, 
On which no neighbouring height its shadow flings, 
Led by desire intense the steep I climb; 
And tracing in the boundless space each woe, 
"Whose sad remembrance my torn bosom wrings, 
Tears, that bespeak the heart o'erfraught, will flow. 
While viewing all below, 
From me, I cry, what worlds of air divide 
The beauteous form, still absent and still near! 
Then chiding soft the tear, 
I whisper, low, haply she, too, has sigh'd 
That thou art far away ; a thought so sweet 

Awhile my labouring soul will of its burden cheat 

" Go thou, my song, beyond that Alpine bound, 
Where the pure smiling heavens are most serene : 
There, by a murmuring stream, may I be found, 
Whose gentle airs around 
Waft grateful odours from the laurel green ; 
Nought but my empty form roams here unblest, 

There dwells my heart with her who steals it from my breast." * 

Petrarch's Italian poetry, written either to please his 
lady or to relieve the overflowing of his heart, bears in 
every line the stamp of warm and genuine, though of 
refined and chivalric, passion. It has been criticised as 
too imaginative, and defaced by conceits : of the latter J 
there are a few, confined to a small portion of the son- 
nets. They will not be admired now, yet, perhaps, they 
are not those of the poems which came least spon- 
taneously from the heart. Those have experienced little 
of the effects of passion, of love, grief, or terror, who 
do not know that conceits often spring naturally from 
such. Shakspeare knew this ; and he seldom describes 
the outbursts of passion unaccompanied by fanciful 
imagery which borders on conceit. Still more false is 
the notion, that passion is not, in its essence, highly > 
imaginative. Hard and dry critics, who neither feel 
themselves nor sympathise in the feelings of others, 
alone can have made this accusation : these people, 

* The envoi shows that this canzone was written in Italy, probably 
when Petrarch was residing at Parma, a few years after. Yet being able 
to quote only a poem of which there exists a worthy translation, I could 
not refrain from extracting it ; and though alluding to another country, and 
finished there, it is almost impossible not to believe that it was conceived 
at Vaucluse, and that it breathes the spirit that tilled him in that solitude. 
VOL. I. G 


whose inactive and colourless fancy naturally suggests 
no new combination nor fresh tint of beauty, suppose 
that is a cold exercise of the mind, when 

" The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, 
Doth glance from heaven to eaxth, from earth to heaven." 

As they with difficulty arrive at comprehending poetic 
creations, they believe that they were produced by dint 
of hard labour and deep study. The truth is the op- 
posite of this. To the imaginative, fanciful imagery 
and thoughts, whose expression seems steeped in the 
hues of dawn, are natural and unforced : when the mind 
of such is calm, their conceptions resemble those of 
other men ; but when excited by passion, when love, 
or patriotism, or the influence of nature, kindles the 
soul, it becomes natural, nay, imperative to them to 
embody their thoughts, and to give " a local habitation 
and a name" to the emotions that possess them. The 
remarks of critics on the overflowings of poetic minds 
remind one of the traveller who expressed such wonder 
when, on landing at Calais, he heard little children talk 

Petrarch, on the other hand, would deceive us, or 
rather deceived himself, when he alludes depreciatingly 
to his Italian poetry. Latin was the language of learned 
men : he deemed it degrading to write for the people ; 
and, fancying that the difficulty of writing Latin was 
an obstacle glorious to overcome, he treated with disdain, 
any works expressed in the vulgar tongue. Yet even 
while he said that these compositions were puerile, he 
felt in his heart the contrary. He bestowed great pains 
on correcting them, and giving them that polished grace 
for which they are remarkable. Still his reason (which 
in this instance, as in others, is often less to be depended 
upon than our intuitive convictions,) assured him that 
he could never hold a high place among poets till he 
composed a Latin poem. 

While living in solitude at Vaucluse, yet ambitious 
that the knowledge of his name should pass beyond the 
confines of his narrow valley, and be heard even in 


Italy, he meditated some great work worthy of the 
genius he felt within him. He at first contemplated > 
writing a history of Rome, from Romulus to Titus ; 
till one day the idea of an epic poem, on the subject of 
his favourite hero, Scipio Africanus, struck him. He 
instantly commenced it with all the ardour of a first 
conception, and continued for some time to build up 
cold dull Latin hexameters. It is curious to mark how 
ill he succeeded : but the structure and spirit of the 
language he used was then totally unknown ; so that, 
while we lament the mis-spending of his time, we cannot 
wonder at his failure. 

He passed several years thus almost cut off from 
society : his books were his great resource ; he was never 
without one in his hand. He relates in a letter, how, 
as a playful experiment, a friend locked up his library, -< 
intending to exclude him from it for three days; but the 
poet's misery caused him to restore the key on the first 
evening : " And I verily believe I should have become 
insane," Petrarch writes, " if my mind had been longer 
deprived of its necessary nourishment." The friend who 
thus played with his passion for reading, was Philip de w 
Cabassoles, bishop of Cavaillon. Cavaillon is a pretty but 
insignificant town, situated on the slope of a mountain 
near the Durance, twelve miles distant from Avignon, 
and six from Vaucluse. He became intimate with Pe- 
trarch here, and they cemented a friendship which lasted 
his life. Sometimes Petrarch visited Cabassoles at 
Cabrieres, where he resided ; often the bishop came to 
the poet's cottage. They frequently passed the livelong 
day together in the woods, without thinking of refresh- 
ment, or whole nights among their books, when morn- 
ing often dawned upon them unawares. After two 
years' residence in this seclusion, Petrarch continued so 
pleased with it, that he wrote to Giacomo Colonna, who 
had endeavoured, by promises of preferment and ad- 
vantage, to entice him from it, imploring him to let 
him remain in a position so congenial to his disposition. 
" You know/' he says, " how false and vain are the 
G 2 


enticements of a court ; and that the men most in favour 
there are the fools and rogues who attain dignities and 
places through adulation and simony. Why, then, 
should you, a man of honour, desire that I should re- 
turn to a court ? And even if it were possible that I 
should obtain any thing from the munificence of the 
pope, the detestable vices of the court are horrible to me. 
When I quitted the papal residence, know that I sang 
the psalm l In exitu Israel ex ./Egypto.' I enjoy, in 
the delightful solitude of Vaucluse, a sweet and im- 
perturbable tranquillity, and the placid and blameless 
leisure of study. Any spare time I may have I go to 
Cabrieres to amuse myself. Ah ! if you were permitted 
to take up your abode in this valley, you would assuredly 
be disgusted, not only with the pope and cardinals, but 
the whole world. I am firmly resolved never to behold 
the court again." 

In this letter, however, he but half expresses the 

-' cause of his hatred to Avignon ; for he does not allude 
to Laura, while it was the memory of her that not only 
made him fly the city in which she lived, but tremble 
at the mere thought of how near he still was. And 
while he describes the heavenly tranquillity of his se- 
clusion, and the beauty that adorned it, he exclaims, 
" But the vicinity of Avignon poisons all." So deep 
was his fear of reviving his passion by seeing its object, 
that he never even visited that city for a few days. On 

-' one occasion, hearing that his friend, William da Pas- 
trengo, had arrived there, he repaired thither instantly 
to see him : but, on his arrival within the precincts of 
the fatal walls, he felt his chains fall so heavily around 

- him, that, resolved to cast them off at once, without 
tarrying an hour, without seeing his friend, the same 
night he returned to Vaucluse, and then wrote to excuse 
himself; alleging, as his motive, his desire to escape 
from the net of passion that enveloped him in that town. 
At the same time, with the contradictory impulses of a 

' lover, he entreated the painter, Simon Memmi, a pupil 
of Giotto, just arrived in Provence, and in high esteem 


with the pope and cardinals, to execute for him a small 
portrait of Laura.* Simon consented ; and was so pleased 
with the model thus presented him, that he frequently 
afterwards introduced her face into his pictures of saints 
and angels. Petrarch repaid his friend's complaisance 
hy two sonnets of praise and commendation. 

In the imaginary conversations which Petrarch pic- 
tures himself to have held with St. Augustine, the saint J 
tells him that he is bound by two adaTnahtine chains 
love and glory. To free himself from the first of these 
he had retreated to Vaucluse, and found the attempt 
vain. The second passion of his soul became even 
more strong, allying itself to the first, for he wished 
Laura's lover to be renowned. This was also more 
successful, as, beside the honour in which he was held 
hy all who knew him, it proved that his name was 
heard in distant countries, and his merit acknowledged. 
He had before entertained a vague wish for the_ laurel J 
crown of poetry ; but it was beyond his hopes, when, 
on the same day, the 24th of August, 1340, while at 1340. 
Vaucluse, he received letters from the Roman senate, -32tat. 
and from the chancellor of the university of Paris, in- ^ 6 * 
viting him to receive it. Hesitating to which city to 
yield the preference, he wrote to ask the advice of car- 
dinal Colonna ; and, counselled by him, as well as fol- 
lowing his own predilection, decided in favour of Rome. 
Another circumstance influenced Petrarch in this 
choice. Not long before, his friend Dionisio Robertis 
had visited him at Vaucluse on his way to the court of 

* This was not a painting, but a small marble medallion. It has been, 
since the fourteenth century, in possession of the Peruzzi family at Flo- 
rence. Behind the portrait of Laura are four Italian verses, not inserted 
in any editions of Petrarch : 

" Splendida luce cui chiaro se vede 

Quel nel che pub mostrar nel mondo amorc, 

O vero exemplo del sopran valore 

Ed'ognimeravijflia intiera fede." 

There is a medallion also of Petrarch, similar in form to the other, behind 
which is inscribed 

" Simion de Senis me fecit, 

Sub Anno Domini MCCCXLIIII." 

The authenticity of these bas-reliefs is acknowledged in Italy ; a pamphlet, 
giving an account of them, was published in Paris, 1821, written by one of 
the Peruzzi family. 

3 3 


Robert king of Naples. From him Petrarch heard of 
the literary tastes and liberal disposition of this 
amiable monarch. He had already meditated a visit to 
him, and letters had been interchanged between them. 
The circumstance of his coronation gave him a fair ex- 
cuse for paying him a visit. In the ardour of an age 
? scarcely yet mature, he believed himself worthy of the 
honour conferred on him ; but he tells us that he felt 
ashamed of relying only on his own testimony and that 
of the persons who invited him. Perhaps the desire of 
display, and of proving to the world that he was no 
illiterate pretender, was the stronger motive. However 
this might be, he made choice of the king of Naples, 
more illustrious in his eyes for his learning than his 
crown, to examine his claim to distinction, and be the 
judge of his deserts.* 

1341 He lost no time in repairing to the court of king 
JEtat. Robert, who received him with a warmth of friendship 
that excited his deepest gratitude. Hearing the object 
of the poet's visit, he expressed great delight, and con- 
sidered the choice made of him, among all mortals, to 
be the judge of his merits, as glorious to himself. 
During the many conversations they held together, 
4 Petrarch showed the monarch the commencement of 
his poem on Africa. Robert, highly delighted, begged 
that it might be dedicated to him : the poet gladly as- 
sented, and kept his promise, though the king died be- 
fore it could be fulfilled. The examination of his 
acquirements lasted three days, after which the king 
declared him worthy of the laurel, and sent an ambas- 
sador to be present on his part when the crown was 
conferred. Petrarch repaired to Rome for the cere- 
mony, and was crowned in the capital with great so- 
' lemnity, in presence of all the nobles and high-born 
ladies of the city. " I then," writes Petrarch, " thought 
myself worthy of the honour : love and enthusiasm bore 
me on. But the laurel did not increase my knowledge, 
while it gave birth to envy in the hearts of many."f 
* EpisL ad Posterit t *bid. 


Leaving Rome soon after his coronation, Petrarch 
intended to return to Avignon, but passing [through * 
Parma he was detained by his friend Azzo Correggio, 
who ruled the city, governing it with incomparable 
wisdom and moderation. The friendship between Azzo 
and Petrarch had commenced at A\ignon, where, for 
the first and only time, Petrarch had been induced to 
take on himself the office of a barrister, and pleaded the * 
cause of the Correggii against their enemies the Rossi 
before the pope, and succeeded in obtaining a decision 
in their favour. This, as is mentioned, is the only oc- - 
casion on which Petrarch played the advocate ; and he 
boasts of having gained the cause for his clients with- 
out using towards their adversaries the language of 
derision and sarcasm. 

Petrarch, meanwhile, remembering the honour he had 
received, was solicitous not to appear unworthy of 
it; and, on a day, wandering among the hills and 
crossing the river Ensa, he entered the wood of Selva * 
Piana : struck by the beauty of the place, he turned his 
thoughts to his neglected poem of Africa ; and, excited 
by an enthusiasm for his subject which had long been 
dormant, he composed that day, and on each following 
one, some verses. On returning to Parma he sought 
and found a tranquil and fit dwelling: buying the 
house that thus pleased him, he fixed himself at Parma, 
and continued to occupy himself with his poem with so 
much ardour, that he brought it to a conclusion with a 
speed that excited his own surprise.* 

At this time Petrarch suffered the first of those 
losses which afterwards cast such gloomy shadows over J 
his life, in the death, first of Thomas of Messina, and 
then of a dearer friend, Giacomo Colonna. Tommaso 
Caloria of Messina had studied with Petrarch at 
Bologna, and many of his letters are addressed to him. 
There existed a strict friendship between them, both 
loving and cultivating literature. His early death 
deeply affected the warm-hearted poet. The impression 

* Epist ad PosteriL 
O 4 


he received was so melancholy and hitter, that he desired 
to die also ; and a fever, the consequence of his grief, 
made him imagine that in reality his end was approach- 
ing. To add to his disquietude, he heard of the illness 
of Giacomo Colonna. The bishop was at that time re- 
siding at Lombes, apart from all his family, and Pe- 
trarch was about to join him to fulfil his duties as 
canon. At this time he one night dreamt that he saw 
Giacomo Colonna, in his garden at Parma, crossing the 
rivulet that traversed it. He went to meet him, asking 
him, with surprise, whence he came? whither he 
was going in such haste ? and wherefore unattended ? 
The bishop replied, smiling, (f Do you not remember 
when you visited the Garonne Avith me, how you dis- 
liked the thunder-storms of the Pyrenees ? They now 
annoy me also, and I am returning to Rome." So say- 
ing he hastened on, repelling with his hand Petrarch, 
who was about to follow him, saying, " Remain, 
you must not now accompany me." As he spoke, his 
countenance changed, and it was overspread with the 
hues of death. Nearly a month after, Petrarch heard 
that the bishop had died during the night on which 
this dream had occurred. The poet was a faithful and 
believing son of the church of Rome, but he was not 
superstitious, and saw nothing supernatural in this 
affecting coincidence. The loss of his friend and patron 
grieved him deeply, and his mourning was renewed 
soon after by the death of Dionisio Rohertis. These 
reiterated losses made so profound an impression, that 
he trembled and turned pale on receiving any letter, 
and feared at each instant to hear of some new disaster. 
Satisfied with the tranquillity which he enjoyed at 
Parma, he resisted the frequent and earnest solicitations 
of his friends at Avignon to return among them. He 
did not forget Laura. Her image often occupied him. 
Tt was here we may believe that he wrote the canzone 
before quoted, and many sonnets, which showed with 
what lively and earnest thoughts he cherished the pas- 
sion which had so long reigned over him. He could 


not write letters ; but as it is a lover's dearest solace to 
make his mistress aware that his attachment survives > 
time and absence, Petrarch, we may easily suppose, was 
glad, by the medium of his heart- felt poetry, to commu- 
nicate with her who, he hoped, prized his affection, even 
if she did not silently return it. Still love, while far 
from her, did not so pertinaciously and cruelly torment, J 
and .he was unwilling to trust himself within the in- 
fluence of her presence. It required a powerful mo- 
tive to induce him to pass the Alps ; but this occurred 
after no long period of time. Italy, and especially 
Rome, was torn by domestic faction and the lawlessness 
of the nobles. Petrarch saw in the secession of the J 
popes to Avignon the cause of these disasters. His 
patriotic spirit kindled with indignation, that the head 
of the church and the world should desert the queen of 
cities, and inhabit an insignificant province. He had 
often exerted all his eloquence to induce successive popes 
to return to the palaces and temples of Italy. Pope 
Benedict XII. died at this time, and Clement VI. was ~< 
elected to fill the papal chair. One of the first in- 
cidents of his reign was the arrival of an embassy 
from Rome, soliciting the restoration of the papal resi- 
dence. Petrarch, having been already made citizen of 
that city, was chosen one of the deputies.* He and 1 342 
Rienzi (who afterwards played so celebrated a part) &&*' 
addressed the pope. Their representations were of no 38> 
avail ; but Clement rewarded the poet by naming him 
prior of Migliarino in the diocese of Pisa. 

Petrarch remained at Avignon. The sight of Laura > 
gave fresh energy to a passion which had survived the 
lapse of fifteen years. She was no longer the blooming 
girl who had first charmed him. The cares of life had 
dimmed her beauty. She was the mother of many 
children, and had been afflicted at various times by ill- 
nesses. Her home was not happy. Her husband, with- 
out loving or appreciating her, was ill-tempered and 
jealous. Petrarch acknowledged that if her personal 

* Abb-' de Sa.lo 


charms had been her sole attraction he had already 
ceased to love her. But his passion was nourished by 
sympathy and esteem ; and above all, by that mysterious 
tyranny of love,, which, while it exists, the mind of man 
seems to have no power of resisting, though in feebler 
minds it sometimes vanishes like a dream. Petrarch 
was also changed in personal appearance. His hair was 
sprinkled with grey, and lines of care and sorrow 
trenched his face. On both sides the tenderness of af- 
fection began to replace, in him the violence of passion, 
in her the coyness and severity she had found necessary 
to check his pursuit. The jealousy of her husband 
opposed obstacles to their seeing each other.* They 
met as they could in public walks and assemblies. 
Laura sang to him, and a soothing familiarity grew up 
between them as her fears became allayed, and he looked 
forward to the time when they might sit together and 
converse without dread. He had a confidant in a 
Florentine poet, Sennucio del Bene, attached to the 
service of cardinal Colonna, to whom many of his 
sonnets are addressed, now asking him for advice, now 
relating the slight but valued incidents of a lover's life. 
He had another confidant into whose ear to pour the 
history of his heart. This was the public. In those 
days, when books were rare, reading was a luxufy re- 
served for a few, and it was chiefly by oral communi- 
cation that a poet's contemporaries became acquainted 
with his productions ; and there was a class of men, 
not poets themselves, who chiefly subsisted by repeating 
the productions of others : " men," writes Petrarch, 
tf of no genius, but endowed with memory and industry. 
Unable to compose themselves, they recite the verses of 
others at the tables of the great, and receive gifts in 
return. They are chiefly solicitous to please their 
audience by novelty. How often have they importuned 
me with entreaties for my yet unfinished poems ! Often 
I refused. Sometimes, moved by the poverty or worth 
of my applicants, I yield to their desires. The loss is 

^ * Abb de SMe. 


small to me, the gain" to them is great. Many have 
visited me, poor and naked, who, having obtained what 
they asked, returned, loaded with presents, and dressed 
in silk, to thank me." These were the booksellers of / 
the middle ages. It was thus that the Italian poetry 
of Petrarch became known ; and he, finding that it 
was often disfigured in repetition, took pains at last to J 
collect and revise it. He performed the latter task 
with much care ; and afterwards said, that though he 
saw a thousand faults in his other works, he had brought > 
his Italian poetry to as great a degree of perfection as 
he was capable of bestowing. 

He applied himself to Greek at this time under Ber- 
nardo Barlaam, a Calabrian by birth, but educated at 
Constantinople. He had come to Avignon as ambas- 
sador from the Greek emperor Andronicus, for the pur- 
pose of reconciling the Greek and Roman churches. 
They read several of the Dialogues of Plato together. 
The book entitled " The Secret of Francesco Petrarca" - 
was written at this period. This work is in the form 
of dialogues with St. Augustin. Petrarch, assisted by 
the questions and remarks of the saint, examines the 
state of his mind, laying bare every secret of his soul, 
its weaknesses and its fears, with the utmost ingenuous- 
ness. He relates the struggles of his passion for Laura, * 
and accuses himself of that love of glory which was the 
spur of so many of his actions. He speaks of the con- 
stitutional melancholy of his disposition, which often 
rendered him gloomy and almost despairing ; and he 
is bid by the saint to seek a remedy for his sorrows, 
and make atonement for his faults, by dedicating here- 
after all his faculties to God. 

His literary pursuits were interrupted by a public J 
duty. His friend Robert, king of Naples, died, and 
was succeeded by his daughter Giovanna, married to 
Andrea, prince of Hungary. The greatest dissension 
reigned between the royal pair; besides which, the 1343 
young queen was not of an age to govern, and the jtat. 
pope had pretensions to supremacy during her mino- 39. 


rity. Petrarch was sent as ambassador to establish the 
J papal claim ; and he was commissioned, also, by cardinal 
Colonna, to obtain the release of some prisoners of rank 
unjustly detained at Naples. 

During this mission he became attached to the party 
J of queen Giovanna, who inherited her father's love of 
letters ; so that afterwards, when her husband was mur- 
dered, he believed her to be innocent of all share in the 
crime. He was displeased, however, with the court 
and the gladiatorial exhibitions in fashion there. Having 
obtained the liberty of the prisoners, and brought his 
mission from the pope to a successful conclusion, he 
-' returned to Parma. This part of Italy was in a state of 
dreadful disturbance, arising from the wars carried on 
by the various lords of Parma, Verona, Ferrara, Bologna, 
and Padua. Petrarch, besieged, as it were, in the first- 
named town, was obliged to remain. He had still the 
house he had bought, and the books he had collected and 
left in Italy. He loved his cisalpine Parnassus, as he 
named his Italian home, in contradistinction to his 
transalpine Parnassus at Vaucluse ; and, occupying him- 
self with his poem of Africa, he was content to prolong 
1345. his stay in his native country. At length the roads 
JEtat. became safe, and he returned to Avignon. 
41> And now an event occurred which electrified Italy, 
and filled the papal court with astonishment and dis- 
quietude. Nicola di Rienzi, inspired by a desire to free 
his townsmen from the cruel tyranny of the nobles, with 
wonderful promptitude and energy, seized upon the 
government of Rome, assumed the name of tribune, 
and reduced all the men of rank, with Stefano Colonna 
at their head, to make public submission to his power. 
- The change he produced in the state of the country was 
miraculous. Before, travellers scarcely ventured, though 
armed and in bodies, to traverse the various states: 
under him the roads became secure ; and his emissaries, 
bearing merely a white wand in their hands, passed un- 
molested from one end of Italy to the other. Order and 
plenty reigned through the land. The pope and car. 


dinals were filled with alarm; while Petrarch hailed 
with glowing enthusiasm the restoration of peace and 
empire to his beloved country. He wrote the tribune * 
letters t full of encouragement and praise. His heart 
swelled with delight at the prospect of the renewed 
glories of Rome ; and such was his blind exultation, that 
he scarcely mourned the death of several of the most J 
distinguished members of the Colonna family, who fell 
in the struggle between the nobles and Rienzi. 

He desired to return to Italy to enjoy the triumph of - 
liberty and law over oppression and licence. More and 
more he hated Avignon. Pppe Clement VI. was a man ' 
of refinement, and a munificent prince : but he was 
luxurious and dissolute ; so that the vices of the court, 
which filled the poet with immeasurable abhorrence, 
increased during his reign. He had offered Petrarch J 
the dignity of bishop, and the honourable and influential 
post of apostolic secretary ; but the poet declined to 
accept the proferred rank. Love of independence was 
strong in his heart ; and he desired no wealth beyond 
competence, which was secured to him by the prefer- 
ment he already enjoyed. He was at this time arch- -* 
deacon of Parma, as well as canon of various cathedrals. 
He obtained with difficulty the consent of his friends to 
abandon Avignon for Italy. Cardinal Colonna re- - 
proached him bitterly for deserting him ; and Laura 
saw him depart with regret. When he went to take 
leave of her, he found her (as he describes in several 
of his sonnets) surrounded by a circle of ladies. Her 
mien was dejected; a cloud overcast her face, whose 
expression seemed to say, " Who takes my faithful 
friend from me?" Petrarch was struck to the heart by 
a sad presentiment : the emotion was mutual ; they 
both seemed to feel that they should never meet again. 

Yet, restless and discontented, he would not stay. 
He had no ties of home. His brother Gerard had ; 
taken vows, and become a Carthusian monk : he invited 
Petrarch to follow his example; but the poet's love 
of independence prevented this, as well as every other 


servitude. Belonging to the Romish church, he could 
J not marry ; and though he had two children he was 
not attached to their mother, of whom nothing more is 
known except the dqglaration, in the letters of legitimacy 
obtained afterwards for her son, that she was not a 
married woman. Of these two children the daughter 
was yet an infant. The boy, now ten years of age, he 
had placed at Verona, under the care of Rinaldo da 

1347'. Leaving Avignon, Petrarch passed through Genoa, 
./Etat. where he heard of the follies and downfall of Rienzi ; 

43. instead, therefore, of proceeding to Rome, he repaired 
to his house at Parma. 

1348. The fatal year now began which cast mourning and 
^Etat. gloom over the rest of his life. It was a year fatal to 

44. the whole world. The plague, which had been extend- 
ing its ravages over Asia, entered Europe. As if for 

< an omen of the greater calamity, a disastrous earth- 
quake occurred on the 25th of January. Petrarch was 
timid : he feared thunder he dreaded the sea ; and 
the alarming concussion of nature that shook Italy 
filled him with terror. The plague then extended its 
inroads to increase his alarm. It spread its mortal 
ravages far and wide : nearly one half of the population 

J of the world became its prey. Petrarch saw thousands 
die around him, and he trembled for his friends : he 
heard that it was at Avignon, and his friend Sennucio ' 
del Bene had fallen its victim. A thousand sad pre- 
sentiments haunted his mind. He recollected the altered 
countenance of Laura when he last saw her ; he dreamed 
of her as dead ; her pale image hovered near his couch, 
bidding him never expect to see her more. At last, 

J the fatal truth reached him: he received intelligence 
of her death on the I9th of May. By a singular coin- 

< cidence, she died on the anniversary of the day when he 
first saw her. She was taken ill on the 3d of April, 
and languished but three days. As soon as the symp- 
toms of the plague declared themselves, she prepared to 
die: she made her will, which is dated on the 3d of 


April*, and received the sacraments of the church. 
On the 6th she died, surrounded to the last by her 
friends and the noble ladies of Avignon, who braved 
the danger of infection to attend on one so lovely and 
so beloved. On the evening of the same day on which 
she died, she was interred in the chapel of the Cross J 
which her husband had lately built in the church of the 
Minor Friars at Avignon. With her was buried a * 
leaden box, fastened with wire, which enclosed a medal 
and a sealed parchment, on which was inscribed an 
Italian sonnet. If the sonnet were the composition of 
Petrarch, as the sense of it would intimate, although 
its want of merit renders it doubtful, this box must 
have been placed in the grave at a subsequent period. 

The sensitive heart of Petrarch had often dwelt^on * 
the possibility of Laura's death. Although she was 
onljr three years his junior, he comforted himself by 
the reflection that as he had entered life first so he should 
be the first to quit it.f This fond hope was disap- 
appointed : he lost her who, for more than twenty * 
years, had continually been the object of all his thoughts: 
he lost her at a period when he began to hope that, 
while time diminished the violence of his passion, it 
might draw them nearer as friends. The sole melan- >' 
choly consolation now afforded him /was derived from 
the contemplation of the past. That at each hour of 
the day her memory might be more vividly present 
to his thoughts, he fixed to the binding of his copiL-Of J 
Virgil a record of her death, written in Latin, of which 
the following~is a translation : 

" Laura, illustrious through her own virtues, and ' 
long celebrated by my verses, first appeared to me in ' 
my youth, in the year of our Lord 1327, on the sixth 
day of April, in the church of Ste. Claire, at Avignon, 
at the ninth hour:}: of the morning. And in the same 
city, during the same month of April, on the same day 

* Abb6 de S&de. f Secretum Francisci Petrarch. 

| Petrarch uses church time, in which the ninth hour answers to 


of the month, and at the same early hour, but in the 
year 1348, this light was withdrawn from the world; 
while I, alas ! ignorant of my fate, chanced to be at 
Verona. The unhappy intelligence reached me through the 
letters of my friend Louis, at Parma, in the same year, on 
the morning of the nineteenth of May. Her chaste and 
beautiful body was deposited, on the evening of her 
death in the church of the Minor Friars at Avignon.* 
Her soul, as Seneca says of Africanus, I believe to have 
returned to the heaven whence it came. To mingle some 
sweetness with the bitter memory of this miserable 
event, I have selected this place to record it, which 
often meets my eyes ; so that by frequent view of these 
words, and by due estimation of the swift passage of 
time, I may be reminded that nothing henceforth can 
please me in life, and that, my chief tie being broken, it 
is time that I should escape from this Babylon ; and, 
by the grace of God, I shall find this easy, while I reso- 
lutely and boldly reflect on the vain cares of years gone 
by, on my futile hopes, and on their unexpected down- 

Death consecrates and deepens the sentiment with 
which we regard a beloved object j it is no wonder, 
therefore, that Petrarch, whose sensibility and warmth 
of feeling surpassed that of all other men, should have 
gone beyond himself in the poems he wrote subsequent 
to Laura's death. Nothing can be more tender, more 

* The perfect accord between 'this record in Petrarch's handwriting, 
and the inscription on the coffin of Laura de Sade, discovered in the church 
of the Minor Friars at Avignon, puts the identity of the lady beyond all 
doubt. This seems to have taken place for the very purpose of informing 
posterity of who she was whom the poet had celebrated, yet whose actual 
name he never mentioned. 

t " The Virgil to which this note is appended is preserved in the Ambro- 
sian library at Milan. In 1795, a part of the leaf on which it was written 
became detached from the cover, and the librarians perceived other writing 
beneath. Curiosity engaged them to take off the entire leaf, in which pro- 
cess, the parchment being tightly glued, the writing, nearly effaced, re- 
mained on the wood of the binding. They found beneath a note in the 
handwriting of Petrarch, containing the dates of the loss he had once suf- 
fered of the book itself, and its restitution. There is, in addition, a record 
of the dates of the death of various of his friends, mingled with exclam- 
ations of regret and sorrow, and complaints of the increasing solitude to 
which he finds himself reduced through these reiterated bereavements." 


instinct with the spirit of passionate melancholy, and, 
at the same time, more beautiful, than the sonnets and J 
canzoni which lament her loss. It was his only conso- 
lation to recur to all the marks of affection he had ever 
received from her, and to believe that she regarded him 
with tender interest from her place of bliss in heaven. 
He indulged, also, in another truly catholic mode of tes- - 
tifying his affection, by giving large sums in charity for 
the sake of her soul, and causing so many masses to be 
said for the same purpose, that, as a priest who was his 
contemporary, informed his congregation, in a sermon, 
" they had been sufficient to withdraw her from the 
hands of the devil, had she been the worst woman in 
the world; while, on the contrary, her death was 

The death of Laura, overwhelming as it was, was but 
a prelude to numerous others. Petrarch had lived J 
among many dear friends ; but the plague appeared, 
and their silent graves were soon all that remained to 
him of them. Cardinal Colonna died in the course of * 
this same year. He was the last surviving son of the 
hero Stefano, who lived to become childless in his old 
age. Petrarch relates in a letter, that during his first 
visit to Rome, he was walking one evening with Ste- * 
fano in the wide street that led from the Colonna palace 
to the Capitol, and they paused in an open place formed 
by the meeting of several streets. They both leant their 
elbows on an antique marble, and their conversation - 
turned on the actual condition of the Colonna family : 
after other observations that fell from Stefano, he turned * 
to Petrarch with tears in his eyes, saying, " With re- 
gard to the heir of my possessions, I desire and ought 
to leave them to my sons ; but fate has ordered other- 
wise. By a reversal of the order of nature, which I 
deplore, it is I decrepit old man as I am who will 
inherit from all my children." As he spoke, grief seized 
upon his heart, and interrupted further speech. Now 

VOL. I. H 


this singular prophecy was fulfilled ; and Petrarch, in 
his letter of condolence,, reminds the unhappy father of 
this scene. The old man, however, survived but a few 
months the last of his sons. 

Petrarch, during the autumn, visited Giacomo da 
Carrara, lord of Padua, who had often invited him with 
a warmth and pertinacity, which he found it at length 
impossible to resist. He passed many months in that 
town, visiting occasionally Parma, Mantua, and Ferrara, 
being much favoured and beloved by the various lords 
1350. of these cities. On occasion of the jubilee, he went to 
jtat. R ome m pilgrimage, to avail himself of the religious 
6> indulgences afforded on that occasion. On his way 
through Florence, which he visited for the first time, 
w he saw Boccaccio, with whom he had lately entered into 
a correspondence. Continuing his journey, he met with 
a serious injury from the kick of a horse on his knee, 
on the road near Bolsena, which occasioned him great 
pain, and on his arrival at Rome confined him to his bed 
for some days. As soon as he was able to rise, he per- 
formed his religious duties, and, with earnest prayers 
J and good resolutions, dedicated his future life to the 
practices of virtue and piety. 

Returning from Rome, he passed through his native 
> town of Arezzo. The inhabitants received him with every 
mark of honour : they showed him the house in which 
he was born, which they had never permitted to be 
pulled down nor altered, and attended on him during 
his visit with zealous affection. On his arrival at 
Padua he was afflicted by hearing of the death of his 
friend and protector Giacomo da Carrara; who, but 
a few days before,, had been assassinated by a relative. 
The son of Giacomo succeeded to him, and though the 
difference of age prevented the same intimacy of friend- 
ship, the young lord loved and honoured Petrarch as 
his father had done ; so that he continued to reside in 
the city, over which the youth ruled. Sometimes he 
-t visited Venice, to which beautiful and singular town he 
was much attached. The doge, Andrea Bandolo, was 


his friend ; and he exerted his influence to put an end 
to the destructive war carried on between Venice and 
Genoa, writing forcible and eloquent letters to the doge. 
His endeavours were without success ; but the injuries J 
which the republics mutually inflicted and received 
might make them afterwards repent that they had riot - 
listened to the voice of the peace-maker. 

Nor was the poet's heart wholly closed against the 
feelings of love ; nor could the image of the dead Laura 
possess all the empire which had been hers, cold and 
reserved as she was, during her life. His sonnets give 
evidence that passion had spread fresh nets to ensnare * 
him, when the new object of his admiration died, and 
death quenched and scattered once again the fire which 
he was unable to resist.* Again, he could think only 
of Laura ; and, on the third anniversary of her death, 
exclaimed, " How sweet it had been to die three years 
ago!" It was on this anniversary that Boccaccio ar- 
rived at Padua, bringing the decree of the Florentine 
republic, which reinstated him in his paternal inherit- 
ance, together with letters inviting him to accept of a J 
professor's chair in their new university. 

Such an employment scarcely suited one, who, for the 
sake of freedom, had declined the highest honours of the 
catholic church. Petrarch testified great gratitude for 
the restitution of his property, but passed over their ^* 
offered professorship in silence. Instead of repairing, 
as he had been invited, to Florence, he set out to revisit 
Avignon and Vaucluse. " I had resolved," he writes, 4 
<( to return here no more ; but my desires overcame 
my resolution, and, in justification of my inconstancy, 
I have nothing to allege but the necessity I felt for 
solitude. In my own country I am too well known, 
too much courted, too greatly praised. I am sick of 
adulation ; and that place becomes dear to me, where 

Morte m' ha liberate un' altra volta, 

E rotto '1 nodo, c'l toco ha spento, e sparse, 

Contra la qual uon val Jbrza life 'njr< vo." 

Part II. Sj; nel III. 

n 2 


I can live to myself alone, abstracted from the crowd, 
unannoyed by the voice of fame. Habit, which is a 
second nature, has rendered Vaucluse my true country." 

$ His son accompanied him on this occasion. The boy 
was now fourteen years of age : he was quiet antl 
docile ; but invincibly repugnant to learning, to the no 
slight mortification of his father, who vainly tried, by 
reprehension, raillery, and sarcasm, to awaken emulation 
in his mind. 

When Petrarch arrived at Avignon, Clement VI. 

was very ill, and expected to die. He asked the poet's 
opinion concerning his disorder ; and Petrarch wrote 
him a letter to give him his advice with regard to the 

-' choice of a physician, entreating him to adhere to one, 
as affording a better prospect, where all was chance, 
of having his malady understood. The learned body of 

- medical men was highly offended by this letter : they 
attacked the writer with acrimony ; and Petrarch re- 

, plied in a style of vituperation, little accordant with his 
usual mild manner. He was highly esteemed in the 
papal court, and consulted by the four cardinals, de- 
puted to reform the government of Rome ; and was 
again solicited to accept the place of apostolic secretary, 
which he again refused. " I am content," he said, in 
reply to his friend the cardinal Talleirand : " I desire 
nothing more. My health is good ; labour renders me 
cheerful; I have every kind of book; and I have 
friends, whom I consider the most precious blessing of 
life, if they do not seek to deprive me of my liberty." 
This letter was written from Vaucluse. Petrarch's. 

j heart had opened to a thousand sad and tender emotions, 
when he returned to the valley which had so frequently 
heard his laments : his sonnets on his return to Pro- 
vence breathe the softest spirit of sadness and devoted 

> love. He gladly took refuge in his former home from 
the vices and turbulence of Avignon. He renewed the 
wandering lonely life he had lived twelve years before. 
The old peasant still lived with his aged wife ; and the 
poet amused himself with improvements in his garden, 



which an inundation of the Sorgue overwhelmed and 

On the death of Clement VI. he was succeeded by 
Innocent VI. He was an ignorant man ; and, from J 
Petrarch's perpetual study of Virgil (who was reputed 
to be an adept in the art magic), he fancied that the 
poet was a magician also, Petrarch was now most 1352. 
anxious to return to Italy, yet still lingered at Vau- -33tat. 
cluse. He made an excursion to visit the Carthusian 48 *^ 
convent, where his brother Gerard had taken the vows. 
Gerard had acted an admirable and heroic part during 
the visitation of the plague, and survived the dangers to 
which he fearlessly exposed himself. Petrarch was 
received in his monastery with respect and affection ; 
and, in compliance with the request of the monks, wrote > 
his treatise " On Solitary Life." 

Winter advanced, and he was most anxious to cross 
the Alps. He visited his old friend, the bishop of 
Cavaillon, at Cabrieres, and was entreated by him to 
remain ef one day more/' Petrarch consented with 
reluctance ; and on that very night such storms came 
on, as impeded his journey for several weeks. At 1353. 
length he crossed the Alps, and arrived at Milan, on his Mtat. 
way southward, not having determined in his own 49 ' 
mind in what town he should fix his residence, waver- 
ing between Parma, Padua, Verona, and Venice. While 
in this state of indecision, the hospitable reception and 
earnest invitation of Giovanni Visconti, lord and bishop 
of Milan, induced him to remain in that city. 

Louis of Bayiere, emperor of Germany, had been de- ^ ^ 
posed by pope John XXII., and each succeeding pontiff 
confirmed the interdict. Clement VI. raised Charles, * 
the son of John of Luxembourg, king of Bohemia, to 
the imperial throne, imposing on him, at the same time, 
rigorous and disgraceful conditions with regard to his 
rights over Italy, forcing him into an engagement never 
to pass a single night at Rome, but enter it merely for 
the ceremony of his coronation. Charles and his father 
had visited Avignon in the year 134-6, to arrange the 
H 3 


stipulations.* Some time after, Petrarch wrote a long 

-" and eloquent letter to the emperor, imploring him to 
enter Italy, and to deliver it from the disasters that op- 
pressed it. It is singular that two such lovers of their 
country., as Dante and Petrarch, should both have in- 
vited German emperors to take possession of it: but 
the emperor was then the representative of the sove- 
reigns of the Western empire, and they believed that, 
crowned and reigning at Rome, that city would again 
become the capital of the world^ and Germany sink into 
a mere province. For though Petrarch earnestly implores 
the emperor to enter Italy, various imprecations against 
the Germans are scattered through his poems. 
1354. Charles did not answer the poet's letter immediately, 
-^ tat -but he entertained a profound admiration for him; and 

' when he entered Italy, being at Mantua, he sent one of 
his esquires to Milan, to invite Petrarch to come to him. 
The poet immediately obeyed, though frost and snow 
rendered his journey slow and difficult. The emperor 
received him with the greatest kindness and distinction. 
Petrarch used the utmost freedom of speech in his ex- 
hortations to the emperor to deliver Italy. He made 
him a present of a collection of antique medals, among 

* which was an admirable one of Augustus, saying to 
him, " These heroes ought to serve you as examples. 
The medals are dear to me: I would not part with them 
to any one but you. I know the lives and acts of the 
great men whom they represent : this knowledge is not 
enough for you ; you ought to imitate them." 

Petrarch's admonitions were vain. After a progress 
through Italy, and the ceremony of his coronation at 

; Rome ; after having made a mere traffic of his power 
and prerogatives, Charles hastened to repass the Alps, 

* The Abb de Sade attributes to this prince the kiss bestowed on Laura 
at a ball, by one of royal blood. The prince with his hand beckoned 
aside every other elder of more noble lady, and kissed her on her brow and 
eyelids. Petrarch, who was present, was filled at once with envy and tri, 
umph (Sonnet coi.). If her beauty, and not the celebrity conferred on her 
by the poet, was the occasion of this compliment, it is difficult not to be- 
lieve that it was bestowed before she had lost the bloom of youth, especi. 
ally as it is mentioned that the prince put aside all ladies older than herself 


and returned to Germany, as a contemporary historian 
observes, " with a full purse, but shorn of honour." 

After the death of the bishop-lord Giovanni Vis- * 
conti, Petrarch continued to reside at Milan under the 
protection of his nephew Galeazzo : he was sent by him 1355 
at one time to Venice to negotiate a peace, and on an- ^Etat. 
other to Prague, on an embassy to the emperor Charles. ol - 
Afterwards he was sent to Paris to congratulate king .- 
John on his return from his imprisonment in England: 
he was shocked, in travelling through France, to find 
that it had been laid waste by fire and sword. The in- i860, 
vasion of the English had reduced the whole land to a 
frightful state of solitude; the fields were desolate, and 
no house was left standing, except such as were fortified. 
Paris presented a yet more painful spectacle ; grass grew 
in the deserted streets ; the sounds of gaiety and the si- 
lence of learning were exchanged for the tumult of soldiery 
and the fabrication of arms. Petrarch was well received, 
especially by the dauphin, Charles, who cultivated let- 
ters and loved literary men. Here, as in every other 
court he visited, the poet was solicited to remain ; but 
he found the barbarism of Paris little congenial to his 
habits, and he hastened back to Italy. 

When not employed on public affairs, Petrarch lived 
< a life of peace and retirement at Milan. In the summer, 
he inhabited a country-house three miles from the city, 
near the Garignano, to which he gave the name of Lin- 
terno : when in the city, he dwelt in a sequestered 
quarter near the church of St. Ambrose. " My life," 
he says in a letter to the friend of his childhood, Guido 
Settimo, " has been uniform ever since age tamed the 
fervour of youth, and extinguished that fatal passion 
which so long tormented me ; and though I often 
change place, my mode of spending my time is the 
same in all. Remember my former occupations, and 
you will know what my present ones are. It seems to 
me that you ought not only to know my acts, but even 
my dreams. 

" Like a weary traveller, I quicken my steps as I 
H 4 


proceed. I read and write day and night, one occu- 
pation relieving another. This is all my amusement 
and employment : my eyes are worn out with reading, 
my fingers weary with holding the pen. My health is 
so good and rohust that I scarcely feel the advance of 
years. My feelings are as warm as in my youllh, but I 
control their vivacity, so that my repose is seldom dis- 
turbed by them. One thing only is the source of dis- 
quietude : I am esteemed more than I deserve, so that a 
vast concourse of people come to see me. Not only am I 
honoured and loved by the prince of this city and his 
court, but the whole population pays me respect : yet, 
living in a distant quarter of the city, the visits I re- 
ceive are infrequent, and I am often left in solitude. 
I am unchanged in my habits as to sleep and food. I 
remain in bed only to sleep, for slumber appears to me 
to resemble death, and my bed the grave, which renders 
it hateful. The moment I awake I hurry to my library. 
Solitude and quiet are dear to me; yet I appear talkative 
to my friends, and make up for the silence of a year by 
the conversation of a day. My income is increased, I 
confess, but my expenditure increases with it. You 
know me, and that I am never richer nor poorer : the 
more I have, the less I desire, and abundance renders 
me moderate : gold passes through my fingers, but never 
sticks to them." 

The literary work on which his busy leisure was 
employed, was es De Remediis utriusque Fortunae," 
which he dedicated to Azzo di Coreggio. Azzo, who had 
formerly protected him, had been driven into exile, and, 
alternately a prisoner and an outcast, was reduced to a 
state of the heaviest adversity. Petrarch never ceased 
to treat him with respect; and for his comfort and con- 
solation composed this treatise, of how to bring a remedy 
to the evils consequent on both prosperous and adverse 

Honoured by all men, beloved by his friends, with 
whom he kept up a constant and affectionate corre- 
spondence, courted by monarchs, and refusing the offers 


made him of the highest preferment in the church, 
Petrarch spent his latter years in peace and independ- -* 
ence. His chief source of care was derived from his son. 
The youth was at first modest and docile, but his dis- 
inclination to literature was so great, that he abhorred 
the very sight of books. As he grew older he became 
rebellious, and a separation ensued between him and his J 
father, soon made up again on the submission of the 
young man and his promises of amendment. The poet's 
tranquillity was at last broken in upon by the wars of 
the Visconti, and the plague, which again ravaged Italy. 
It had spared Milan by a singular exemption in the 
year 1348, but during its second visitation it was more 
fatal to this city than to any other. Petrarch had to 
mourn the loss of many friends ; and his son, who died - 
at this time, was probably one of its victims. Petrarch 
records his death in his Virgil, in these words : 
" He who was born for my trouble and sorrow, who 
while he lived was the cause of heavy care, and who 
dying, inflicted on me a painful wound, having enjoyed 
but few happy days in the course of his life, died A. D. 
I36l, at the age of twenty .five." * 

These combined causes induced Petrarch to take up 1361 
his abode at Padua, of whose cathedral he was a canon. ^Jta 
During the remainder of his life he usually spent the 
period of Lent there, and the summer at Pavia ; which, 
belonging to Galeazzo Visconti, he visited as his guest. * 
A great portion of his time also was passed at Venice : 
he had made the republic a present of his library, and 
a palace was decreed to him for its reception, in which 
he often resided. Andrea Dando was dead ; his heart had - 
been broken by the reverses which the republic suffered 
in its struggle with Genoa. Marino Faliero, who sue- * 
ceeded to him, had already met his fate ; but the new 
doge, Lorenzo Celsi, was Petrarch's warm friend. 

During this year he gave his daughter Francesca, 
who was scarcely twenty years of age, in marriage to 
Francesco Brossano, a Milanese gentleman. She was 
Ugo Foscola 


gentle and modest, attached to her duties, and averse to 
the pleasures of general society: in person she resemhled 
her father to a singular degree. Her husband had a 
pleasing exterior ; his physiognomy was remarkahly 
placid, his conversation was unassuming, and his man- 
ners mild and obliging. Petrarch was much attached 
to his son-in-law : the new married pair inhabited his 
house at Venice, and the domestic union was never dis- 
turbed to the end of his life. 

One of his principal friends at this period was Boc- 
caccio. Boccaccio, in the earnestness of his admiration 
and the singleness of his heart, sent him a copy of 
Dante, transcribed by his own hand, with a letter 
inviting him to study a poet whose works he neglected 
and depreciated. Petrarch, in answer, endeavoured to 
exculpate himself from the charge of envying or despising 
the father of Italian poetry. But his very excuses be- 
tray a latent feeling of irritation ; and he asks, how he 
could be supposed to envy a man whose highest flights 
were in the vulgar tongue, while such of his own poems 
as were composed in that language he regarded as mere 
pastime. The poetry of Dante and Petrarch is essen- 
tially different. There is more refinement in Petrarch, 
and more elegance of versification, but scarcely more 
grace of expression. The force, beauty, and truth, with 
which Dante describes the objects of nature, and the 
sympathetic feeling that vivifies his touches of human 
passion, is of a different style from the outpouring of sen- 
timent, and earnest dwelling on the writer's own emo- 
tions, which form the soul of Petrarch's verses. The 
characters of the poets were also in contrast.* Dante 
was a proud, high-spirited, unyielding man : his haughty 
soul bent itself to God and the sense of virtue only ; he 
loved deeply, but it was as a poet and a boy ; and his 
after-life, spent in adversity, is tinged only with sombre 
colours. He possessed the essentials of a hero. Pe- 
trarch was amiable and conciliating : he was incapable of 

Essays on Petrarch, by Ugo Foscolo. 


venality or baseness ; on the contrary, his disposition was 
frank, independent, and generous; but he was vain even to 4 
weakness ; and there was a touch of almost feminine 
softness in his nature, which was even accompanied by 
physical timidity of temper. His ardent affections made 
him,, to a degree, fear his friends ; he was versatile rather 
than vigorous in his conceptions ; and it was easier for 
him to plan new works, than to execute one begun, and 
to persevere to the end. 

He wrote for the learned in Latin ; he was averse to J 
communicate with the ignorant in Italian verse, yet he 
never made Laura the subject of poetry except in his 
native tongue. Even to the last he wrote of her j and 
one of his latest productions, chiefly in her honour, 
were the " Triumphs." One of these, " The Triumph a 
of Death," is among the most perfect and beautiful of 
his productions. His description of Laura's death; the 
assemblage of her friends who came to witness her last 
moments, and asked what would become of them when 
she was gone ; her own calmness and resignation ; her 
life fading as a flame that consumes itself away, not 
that is violently extinguished ; her countenance fair, not 
pale ; her attitude, reposing like one fatigued, a sweet 
sleep closing her beautiful eyes ; all is told with touch- 
ing simplicity and grace. The second part relates the 
imagined visit of her spirit to the pillow of her bereaved 
lover on the night of her death. She approached him, 
and, sighing, gave him her hand : delight sprung up in 
his heart at taking the desired hand in his. " Recog- 
nise her," she said, " who abstracted you from the 
beaten path when your young heart first opened itself 
to her." Then, with a thoughtful and composed mien, 
she sat, and made him sit on a bank shaded by a laurel 
and a beech. " How should I fail to know my sweet 
deity!" replied the poet, weeping, and doubtful whether 
he spoke to one alive or dead. She comforted and ex- 
horted him to give up those mundane thoughts which 
made death a pain. " To the good," she said, " death 
is a delivery from a dark prison. I had approached 


near the last moment ; the flesh was weak, but my 
spirit ready, when I heard a low sad voice saying, ' O 
miserable is he who counts the days; and one appears 
to endure a thousand years and who lives in vain who 
wanders over earth and sea, thinking only of her 
speaking only of her ! ' Then/' continues Laura, " I 
turned my languid eyes, and saw the spirit who had im- 
pelled me and checked you; I recognised her aspect ; for 
in my younger days, when I was dearest to you, she made 
life bitter, and death, which is seldom pleasant to mor- 
tals, sweet ; so that at that sad moment I was happy, 
except for the compassion I felt for you." " Ah ! lady," 
; said the poet, " tell me, I beseech you, did love never 
inspire you with a wish to pity my sufferings, without 
detracting from your own virtuous resolves ? For your 
sweet anger and gentle indignation, and the soft peace 
written in your eyes, held my soul in doubt for many 
years." A smile brightened the lady's countenance as 
she hastily replied, " My heart never was, nor can be, 
divided from yours ; but I tempered your fire with my 
coldness, for there was no other way of saving our 
young names from slander, nor is a mother less kind 
because she is severe. Sometimes I said, ' He rather 
burns than loves, and I must watch ;' but she watches 
ill who fears or desires. You saw my outward mien, but 
did not discern the inward thought. Often anger was 
painted on my countenance, while love warmed my heart; 
but reason was never in me conquered by feeling. 
Then, when I saw you subdued by grief, I turned my 
eyes tenderly on you, and saved your life, and our ho- 
nour. These were my arts, my deceits, my kind or 
disdainful treatment; and thus, either sad or gay, I 
have led you to the end, and rejoice, though weary." 
" Lady," replied the poet, " this were reward for all 
my .devotion, could I believe you." "Never will I say 
whether you pleased my eyes in life," answered his visi- 
tant; " but the chains which your heart wore pleased me, 
as well as the name which, far and near, you have con- 
ferred on me. Your love needed moderation only ; our 


mutual affection might be equal; but you displayed yours, 
I concealed mine. You were hoarse with demanding 
pity, while I continued silent, for shame or fear made 
much suffering appear slight in my eyes. Grief is not 
decreased by silence, nor is it augmented by complaints ; 
yet every veil was riven when alone I listened to you 
singing, ' Dir piu non osa il nostro amore.' My heart 
was with you, while my eyes were bent to earth. But 
you do not perceive," she continued, " how the hours 
fly, and that dawn is, from her golden bed, bringing 
back day to mortals. We must part alas ! If you 
would say more, speak briefly." "I would know, 
lady," said the poet, f< whether I shall soon follow you, 
or tarry long behind." She, already moving away, 
replied, " In my belief, you will remain on earth with, 
out me many years." 

Thus fondly, in age, and after the many years which 
Laura had prophesied had gone over his head, Petrarch 
dwelt on the slight variations and events that checkered 
the history of his love. It may be remarked, also, that 
he grew to hold in slight esteem his Latin poetry ; he 
could never be prevailed upon to communicate his 
" Africa," and begged that after his death it might be 

To the last he interested himself deeply in the po- 
litical state of his country. He exceedingly exulted 
when, on the death of Innocent VI., pope Urban V. 
removed his court to Rome. At the same time that he 
refused the reiterated offer of the place of apostolic 
secretary, he asked his friends to solicit church-pre- 
ferment for him he cared not what, so that it did 
not demand the sacrifice of his liberty, nor include the 
responsibility attendant on the care of souls. It would 
seem that his income had become diminished at this 
time, for he often said that it was not in old age that he 
should seek to increase his means ; doubtless his ex- 
penses increased on his daughter's account, and he had 
given up several of his canonicates to his friends. He 
was a generous man, and had many dependents always 


about him ; so that it is no wonder that he wished not 
r to find his capacity of benefiting others inconveniently 


1363. Boccaccio became warmly attached to Petrarch; at 
-flstat. one tj me jj e gpent the three summer months of June, 
July, and August, with him at Venice, in company with 
' a Greek named Leonzio Pilato a singular man, of a 
sombre, acid, and irritable disposition, but valuable to 
the friends as an expounder of the Greek language. 
Pilato left them to return to Constantinople ; but his 
restless gloomy spirit quickly prompted him to wish to 
* revisit Italy. He wrote Petrarch a letter, (c as long 
and dirty," says the poet, " as his own hair and beard. 
This Greek," he continues, in a letter to Boccaccio, 
" would be useful to us in our studies, were he not an 
absolute savage ; but I will never invite him here again. 
Let him go, if he will, with his mantle and ferocious 
manners, and inhabit the labyrinth of Crete, in which 
1365. he has already spent many years." This severity was 
^ tat - tempered afterwards, when he heard of the death of 
Pilato, who was struck by lightning during a storm on 
board ship, while returning by sea to Italy. f< This 
unhappy man," writes Petrarch, " died as he lived, 
miserably. I do not think he ever enjoyed a tranquil 
hour : I cannot imagine how the spirit of poetry con- 
trived to enter his tempestuous soul." 

1367. When Urban V. arrived at Rome, Petrarch wrote 
astat - him a long letter, expressive of the transport he felt on 
this auspicious event. He praised his courage in having 
vanquished every obstacle; adding, (( Permit me to 
praise you ; I shall not be suspected of flattery, for I 
ask nothing except your benediction." The pope re- 
plied to this letter by an eulogium on its eloquence ; 
declaring, at the same time, that he had the greatest 
desire to see and be of service to him. 

But old age had advanced on Petrarch. He had for 

several years suffered, each autumn, the attacks of a 

1369. tertian fever, probably the effect of the climate of Lom- 

3tat. bardy, where that malady is prevalent ; and this tended 

65 ' rapidly to diminish his strength. When Urban V. wrote 


to him with his own hand to reproach him for not 
having come to Rome, and urging his 'instant journey, < 
his letter found Petrarch at Padua, recovering slowly 
from an attack of this kind. He was unable to mount 
a horse, and was obliged to defer obeying the mandate. 
Somewhat recovered during the following winter, he 
prepared for his journey, making his will, which he April 
wrote with his own hand. He then set out, hut got no ' 4 - 
further than Ferrara ; he there fell into a sort of swoon, ^ 
in which he continued for thirty hours without giving 66> ' 
any sign of life. The most violent remedies were ad- 
ministered, and he felt them no more than a marble 
statue. The report went abroad that he was dead, and 
the city was filled with mourning and lamentation. As 
soon as he was somewhat recovered, he would have > 
proceeded on his journey, notwithstanding the repre- 
sentations of the physicians, who declared that he would 
not arrive at Rome alive : but he was too weak to get 
on horseback ; so he was carried back to Padua in a J 
gondola, and was received, on his unexpected arrival, 
with the liveliest demonstrations of joy, by Francesco 
da Carrara, the lord of the town, and by its inhabitants. 

For the sake of tranquillity, and to recover his health, 
he sought a house in the country, and established him- * 
self at Arqua, a village situated north of Padua, among 
the Euganean hills, not far from the ancient and pic- 
turesque town of Este. The country around, presenting 
the vast plains of Lombardy in prospect, and the dells 
and acclivities of the hills in the immediate vicinity, is 
charming beyond description. There is a luxuriance * 
of vegetation, a richness of produce, which belongs to 
Italy, while the climate affords a perpetual spring. Pe- 
trarch built a small but agreeable house at the end of 
the village, surrounded by vineyards and gardens. 

He busied himself in this retreat by finishing a work 
begun three years before, which he had better have left 
wholly undone. It was founded on a curious incident, 
of which he has preserved the knowledge, and which 
otherwise would have sunk into oblivion. There were 


' a set of young men at Venice, disciples of Aristotle, or 
rather of his Arabian translator, Averroes, who set up 
his philosophy as the law of the world, who despised 
the Christian religion, and turned the apostles and 
fathers of the church into ridicule : there was an open 
war of opinion between these men and the pious Pe- 
trarch. Four among them, in the presumption and 
5 vivacity of youth, instituted a kind of mock tribunal, at 
which they tried the merits of their amiable and learned 
countryman ; and pronounced the sentence, that " Pe- 
trarch was a good sort of a man, but exceedingly ig- 
norant." He relates this incident in his treatise, " On 
my own Ignorance and that of others," which he com- 
mences by pretending to be satisfied with the decision. 
" Be it so," he says, " I am content ; let my judges be 
wise, while I am virtuous ! " and then he goes on to 
prove the fallacy of their judgment by a great display 
of erudition. 

May He continued to get weaker, and his illnesses were 

7 * violent, though transient. On one occasion he was at. 

jpt t * tacked by a fever, and the physician sent to him by 

67> ' Francesco da Carrara, declared that he could not survive 

the night. The next morning he was found, apparently 

well, risen from his bed and occupied by his books. 

" This," he says, " has happened to me ten times in 

* the course of ten years." The vital powers were thus 

exhausted, and it was not likely that he could live to 

extreme age. 

Pa- " You ask me how I am," he writes to a friend : " I 

dua, am tranquil, and liberated from the passions of youth. 

Jan. j eri j ovet i health for a long time during the last two 

1.T72 vears * am g rown infirm. My life has been declared 

/Etat to De m imminent danger, yet I am still alive. I am 

68. 'at present at Padua, fulfilling my duties as canon. I 

have quitted Venice, and rejoice to have done so, on 

account of the war between the republic and the lord 

j , of this city. In Venice I should have been suspected ; 

here I am beloved. I pass a great part of my time in 

the country, which I always prefer to town. I read, 


I write, I think. I neither hate nor envy any man. 
During the early season of youth, I despised every one 
except myself in maturer years I despised myself only 
in my old age I despise almost all and myself more 
than any. I fear only those whom I love, and my desires 
are limited to the ending my life well. I try to avoid 
tny numerous visiters, and have a small agreeable house 
among the Euganean hills, where I hope to pass the 
rest of my days in peace with the absent or the dead, 
perpetually in my thoughts. I have been invited by the 
pope, the emperor, and the king of France, who have 
often and earnestly solicited me to take up my abode 
at their several courts ; but I have constantly refused, 
preferring my liberty before all things." 

It is a singular circumstance that one of the last acts 
of Petrarch was, to read the " Decameron." Notwith- > 
standing his intimate friendship with the author during 
twenty years, Boccaccio's modesty prevented his speak- 
ing of the work, and it fell into Petrarch's hands by 
chance. " I have not had time/' he writes to his friend, June 
<f to read the whole, so that I am not a fair judge ; but 8. 
it has pleased me exceedingly. Its great freedom is 137 ^' 
sufficiently excused by the age at which you wrote it, o af * 
the lightness of the subject, and of the readers for whom 
it was destined. With many gay and laughable things, 
are mingled many that are serious and pious. I have 
read principally at the beginning and end. Your de- 
scription of the state of our country during the plague, , 
appears, to me very true and very pathetic. The tale 
at the conclusion made so lively an impression on me. 
that I committed it to memory, that 1 might sometimes 
relate it to my friends." 

This is the story of Griselda. Petrarch translated it ^ 
into Latin for the sake of those who did not understand 
Italian, and often read it and had it read to him. He re- 
lates, that frequently the friend who read it broke off, in- 
terrupted by tears. Among others to whom he commu- 
nicated this favourite tale was our English poet Chaucer, J 
who in his prologue to the story of Griselda says that he 

VOL. I. I 


" Learned it at Padowe of a worthy clerke, 
Francia Petrarch." 

Chaucer had been sent ambassador to Genoa just at this 

The letter to Boccaccio accompanying the Latin 
a translation of the story was probably the last that Pe- 
trarch ever wrote. The life of this great and good 
man had nearly arrived at its conclusion. On the morn- 
ing of the 19th of July, 1374,, he was found by his at- 
J tendants in his library, his head resting on a book. As 
he often passed whole hours and even days in this atti- 
tude, it at first excited no peculiar attention ; but the 
immovability of his posture at length grew alarming, 
and on inspection it was found that he was no more. 

The intelligence of his death spread through Arqua, 
the Euganean hills, and Padua, and occasioned general 
consternation : people flocked from far and near to attend 
his funeral. Francesco da Carrara, with all the nobility 
of the city of Padua, was present. The bishop, with the 
chapter and clergy, performed the ceremony. The funeral 
"* oration was pronounced by Bonaventura da Peraga, of the 
order of the hermits of St. Augustin. The body was first 
interred in a chapel of the church at Arqua, dedicated to 
the Virgin, which Petrarch had himself built. A short 
time after, his son-in-law, Francesco Brossano, erected 
a marble monument opposite the church, and caused 
the body to be transferred to it; inscribing on the tomb 
four bad Latin verses, which it is said that Petrarch 
himself composed, ordering that no epitaph of greater 
pretension should record his death. 

Petrarch directed in his will that none should weep 
his death. (( Tears," he says, " are useless to the dead, 
and they injure the living:" he requested only that alms 
should be given to the poor, that they might pray for 
his soul. He continues, " Let them do what they will 
with my body; it imports nothing to me." He left Fran- 
<* cesco Brossano his heir, and begs him, as his beloved 
son, to divide the money he should find into two parts; 
to keep one himself, and to give the other to the person 


he has mentioned to him. This is said to mean his 
daughter. He left several legacies to hospitals and re- 
ligious houses. He bequeathed his good lute to Thomas 
Barbari, wherewith to sing the praises of God ; and to 
Boccaccio he left fifty golden florins, to buy a robe lined 
with fur, for his winter studies ; apologising at the same 
time for leaving so trifling a sum to so great a man. 

This is a brief and imperfect sketch of Petrarch's life 
drawn from the ample materials which his Latin 
prose works afford, and the careful researches of vari- 
ous biographers, particularly of the Abbe de Sade, who 
ascertained, by infinite labour and perseverance, several 
doubtful facts concerning the persons with whom the 
poet's life is chiefly connected. Much more might be 
said of one whose history is pregnant with profound and 
various interest. It will be enough if these pages con- 
tain a faithful portrait, and impress the reader with a 
just sense, of his honest worth, his admirable genius, 
his high-toned feelings, and the many virtues that 
adorned his long career. 

i 2 



THE family of Giovanni Boccaccio derived itself ori- 
ginally from the Ardovini and Bertaldi, of the castle 
of Certaldo, a fortress of Val d'Elsa, ten miles distant 

* from Florence. His progenitors migrated to that town, 
and hecame citizens of the republic. His father's 
name was Boccaccio di Chellino, derived from that 
of his father Michele, diminished to Michellino or 
Chellino; such, as in the Highlands of Scotland and 
other places in the infancy of society, was the mode by 
which the Italians formed their names ; with the ex- 
ception of a few, who retained the appellation of some 
illustrious ancestor. The son of Boccaccio was named 

4 Giovanni, and he always designated himself at full 
length, as Giovanni di Boccaccio da Certaldo. 

Little is known of the early life of Boccaccio, except 
the slender and vague details which he has interspersed 
in his works. His father was a merchant ; he was a 
man in good repute, and had filled several offices under 
the Florentine government. His commercial specula- 
tions caused him to make frequent journeys, and he 
lived at one time for some years aj; Paris. Boccaccio 

" was most probably born in that city. His mother was 
a French girl of highly respectable family, though not 
noble. It has been disputed whether in the sequel 
Boccaccio di Chellino married her ; but it seems likely 
that she died soon after the birth of her son, and never 

became his wife. It is certain that Giovanni was ille- 
gitimate ; as he was obliged to obtain a bull to 
legitimise himself, when late in life he entered the ec- 
clesiastical profession. 

13 1 3. Boccaccio was born in the year 131 3, and at the age of 
seven accompanied his father to Florence. He tells us 


of himself that he gave early tokens of his future in- 
ventive and romantic talents. When seven years old a 
desire of inventing fictions seized him, and he even x 
then fabricated tales, childish and inartificial it is true, 
though he had never heard any stories or fables, nor 
frequented the society of literary men ; and though he 
was scarcely acquainted with the first elements of 
letters.* His father had, however, plans with regard 
to him wholly at variance with these tastes. For a 
short time he gave him Giovanni da Strada, father of 
the poet Zenobio, for an instructor in the rudiments of 
learning, and then placed him under the charge of a 1323. 
merchant, from whom he was to learn arithmetic, and 
to be initiated in other parts of knowledge appertaining 
to commerce. In this way, to use his own words, he J 
lost six valuable and irrecoverable years. Some friends 
then assured his father that he was better fitted for 
literature than trade, and his parent yielded so far to 
these remonstrances, as to permit him to enter on the 
study of the canonical law, placing him under a cele- 
brated professor. It is very uncertain in what country 1329. 
he resided during this time. He travelled a good deal, 
and we have evidence of his visiting Ravenna, Naples, 1 
and Paris, both while he was with his mercantile in- 
structor, and afterwards. It has been conjectured that 
at the former place he, as a child, knew Dante, who - 
discovered and cherished his infant talents. But this 
idea rests on a very slender foundation, arising from 
Boccaccio speaking of him as his guide from whom he 
derived all good; and Petrarch, alluding to him in a 
letter to Boccaccio, as <( he who was in your youth the) 
first leader, the first torch that led you to study." 
Dante died in 1321, when Boccaccio was only eight years 
old ; it seems probable, therefore, that Boccaccio looked 
on Dante as his master and guide from the reasons that 
made Dante give those names to Virgil ; and the works 
of the Italian poet formed the torch that lighted his coun- 
tryman in his search after knowledge. Another Discussion 

* Genealogia Deorum. 

i 3 


has arisen concerning who his master of canonical law- 
was; it is known that he passed much time in Paris, and 
was familiar with the language, manners, and customs of 
the French ; and as he was intimate with Dionisio Ro- 
bertis, the friend of Petrarch, it is supposed that he 
studied under him.* It is certain, from his own words, 
that he was at that time at a distance from home, and 
that his father, discontented with the career he was pur- 
suing, vexed him with reproachful letters. It would 
seem that Boccaccio di Chellino was a penurious and ill- 
tempered man. 

The project of making him a lawyer did not succeed 
better than the former one. The imaginative youth was 
disgusted with the hard dry study ; nor could the 
counsels of his preceptor, nor the continual admonitions 
of his parent, nor the reproaches of his friends, induce 
him to pursue his new career with any industry. Dis- 
pleased by the little progress he made, his father put an 
end to the experiment, and bringing him back to his 
j 333 commercial pursuits, sent him to Naples, ordering him 
./Etat. there to remain ; or, as it would appear, from some 
20. allusions in his works, recalled him to his home, which 
was then in that city ; as at one time it is certain Boc- 
-* caccio lived under the paternal roof at Naples ; and it 
is also known that at a later period he continued there, 
while his father lived at Florence. 

Boccaccio describes himself as very happy at this 
J time, associating on equal terms with the young nobles, 
with whom he practised a system of great reserve, 
fearing to have his independence infringed upon. But 
} his society was courted, and his disposition and man- 
ners were formed by a familiar intercourse with the 
licentious but refined nobility of king Robert's court. 
Yet he had better thoughts and more worthy talents 
dormant in his heart, which only required a slight 
spark to kindle into an inextinguishable flame. One 
' day, by chance, he visited the tomb of Virgil. t The 
tomb of the Mantuan poet is situated on the height 

B. * Baldelli. . f Filippo Villani. 


of Pausilippo : it consists of a small structure shaped 
like a rude hut, but evidently of ancient date. It 1338. 
is overgrown with rich vegetation ; the wild aloe and &***. 
prickly pear issue from its clefts, and| ivy and other 2 " 
parasites climb up its sides and cling thickly to its 
summit. A dark rock rises immediately before ; it 
is shut in, secluded and tranquil : but at the distance of 
only a few yards, a short ascent leads to the top of the J 
hill, where the whole of the bay of Naples opens itself 
to the eye. The exceeding beauty of this scene fills 
every gazer with delight ; the wide-spread sea is adorned 
by various islands, and by picturesque promontories, 
which shut in secluded bays ; the earth is varied by 
hills, dells, and lakes, by towering heights and woody 
ravines ; the sky, serenely though darkly blue, imparts 
matchless hues to the elements beneath. Nature pre- 
sents her most enchanting aspect ; and the voice of J 
human genius breathing from the silent tomb, speaks of 
the influence of the imagination of man, and of the 
power which he possesses to communicate his ideas in all 
their warmth and beauty to his fellow creatures. Such 
is the tomb of Virgil now such was it five hundred -> 
years ago, when Boccaccio's heart glowed with new-born 
enthusiasm as he gazed upon it. He remained long con- 
templating the spot, and calling to mind with admiration 
the fame of him whose ashes reposed in the structure 
before him : then he began to lament his evil fortune, 
which obliged him to give up his faculties to baser pur- 
suits. Touched suddenly and deeply by an ardent 
desire of cultivating poetry, he, on his return home, cast s 
aside all thoughts of business, and eagerly gave himself 
up to the Muses. And thus, at nearly mature age, 
impelled by his own wishes only, excited and led by 
none, his father averse, and always vituperating lite- 
rature, he, untaught by any, applied to the culti- 
vation of his understanding, devoting himself to the 
study of such authors as he could comprehend, with the 
greatest avidity and delight.* His genius and fervour 

* Geneal. Deor. 
I 4 


conjoined to facilitate his progress ; and his father, be* 
come aware of the inutility of opposition, at length 
consented that he should follow his own inclinations, 
and gave him the necessary assistance. 

Another circumstance occurred not long after to con- 
i firm his predilection for literature, and to exalt it in his 
eyes. He was present when Petrarch was examined 
by Robert, king of Naples, previous to his coronation in 
3341. the Capitol. King Robert was a philosopher, a phy- 
lEtat. s i c i an ^ an d an astrologer," but hitherto he had despised 
' poetry, being only acquainted with some Sicilian rhymes, 
and a few of the compositions of the Troubadours. 
Petrarch, discovering the ignorance of his royal patron, 
* took an opportunity, at the conclusion of his examin- 
ation, to deliver an oration in praise of poetry, setting 
forth its magical beauty and its beneficent influence over 
the minds and manners of men ; and so exalted his 
art, that the king said, in Boccaccio's hearing*, that he 
had never before suspected that the foolish rind of verse 
enclosed matter so lofty and sublime ; and declared 
that now, in his old age, he would learn to appreciate 
J and understand it, asking Petrarch, as an honour which 
he coveted, to dedicate his poem of Africa to him. 
From this time the lover of Laura became the Magnus 
Apollo of the more youthful Boccaccio : he named him 
his guide and preceptor, and became, in process of time, 
his most intimate friend. 

The liberal tastes and generous patronage of king 
Robert drew to his court many of the most illus- 
trious men of the age. Boccaccio was exceedingly de_- 
J sirous, from boyhood, of seeing men celebrated for 
learning t, and he cultivated a friendship with many of 
those who lived at Naples. Under the Calabrian Bar- 
laam he studied Greek. Barbato, the chancellor of the 
king, J)ionisio Robertis, bishop of Monopoli, Paolo Peru- 
gini, royal librarian, Giovanni Barrili, these were all his 
particular friends ; conversing with whom, he cultivated 

* Geneal. Deor. f Ibid. 


the literary tastes to which he entirely devoted him- 

An ardent love of poetry, and an assiduous cultivation 
of his imagination,, made the study of his own nature 
and its impulses a principal subject of contemplation ; 
and thus softening his heart, opened an easy entrance 
to the passion of love. He became attached to a lady 
of high rank at Naples, whom he has celebrated in many 
of his works. 

He relates the commencement of this attachment in 
various and contradictory ways ; on which account a 
celebrated Italian critic has doubted whether the truth * 
is contained in any of his narrations * ; it is more 
credible that they are founded on fact. The object of 
his passion, as is proved by a variety of circumstances, 
and by his own express declaration t, was a natural 
daughter of Robert king of Naples. To "prevent the 
injury which would have accrued to her mother's name, ^ 
had her parentage been avowed, her royal father caused 
her to be adopted by a noble of the house of Achino. 
She was educated with extreme care, and married, when 
very young, to a Neapolitan noble. They first saw April 
each other at the church of San Lorenzo, on a day v of 7 - 
high festival. She was in all the bloom of youth and l j^' 
beauty, dressed with splendour, and surrounded by all 28 ' 
that rank and prosperity can impart of brilliancy. The 
passion was sudden and mutual. J 

But it is in vain that he endeavours to engage our ^ 
sympathy. In spite of all the interest which he tries 
to throw over their attachment, it bears the appearance 
of a mere intrigue. The lady Mary was a wife, and, 
in all probability, a mother. Her lover makes her 
relate, in one of his works , that she was married to 

* Tiraboschi. f Filocopo. 

t This lady Mary cannot be the princess Mary, an acknowledged na- 
tural daughter of king Robert The latter was beheaded during the trou- 
bles at Naples, a year after Boccaccio's death. The poems of Boccaccio 
declare that he outlived his lady Mary, Fiammetta, as hecalled her, many 
years ; and his writings give proof that her royal and illegitimate origin, 
was always preserved a secret 

} La Fiammetta. 


a noble of equal age; that until she saw Boccaccio, 
they were happy in each other; her husband adoring 
her, and she affectionately attached to him. A pas- 

* sion which could disturb such an union appears a 
phrensy as well as a crime. That the lovers suf- 
fered great misery, may serve as a warning, as well as 
an example, of how such attachments, from their very 
nature, from the separations, suspicions, and violations 
of delicacy and truth entailed upon them, must, under 
the most favourable auspices, be fruitful of solicitude 

J and wretchedness. An adherence to truth is the no- 
blest attribute of human nature. The perpetual infringe- 
ment which results from a secret intrigue degrades in 
their own eyes those who practise the falsehood. In 

; the details which Boccaccio has given of his passion, 
we perceive the violation of the most beautiful of 
social ties ; while deceit is substituted for sincerity, 
and mystery for frankness. The lover perceived a 
perpetual lie on the lips of her he loved ; and, had his 
attachment been of an ennobling nature, he would rather 
have given up its gratification, than have sought it in the 
humiliation and error of its object. 

The lady Mary was eminently beautiful. Her hair, 

J of the palest gold, shaded a forehead remarkable for its 
ample proportion ; her brows were black and delicately 
marked ; her eyes bright and expressive ; her beautiful 
mouth was terminated by a small, round, and dimpled 
chin; her complexion was brilliant, her person well 
formed and elegant. She excelled in the dance and 
song, and, above all, in the vivacious, airy spirit of 
conversation. Her disposition was generous and mag- 

j nificent. Boccaccio himself was handsome: his good 
looks were too early injured by plumpness ; but, at this 
time, being only twenty-eight years of age, he was in 
the pride of life. His eyes were full of vivacity ; his 
features regular ; he was peculiarly agreeable and lively 
in society ; his manners were polite and noble ; he was 
proud, taking his origin from a republic where equality 
of rank prevailed ; but, frequenting the society of the 


Neapolitan nobility, he preserved a dignified inde- 
pendence and courteous reserve, which commanded re- 

Hitherto Boccaccio had heen collecting materials, by 
study, for future composition ; but he had written 
nothing. According to his own declaration, his mind 
had become sluggish and debased through frivolity and 
indolence, when his love for the lady Mary awoke him 
to exertion*, and incited him to pursue that career 
which has caused his name to be numbered among the 
illustrious writers of his country. His first work, 
written at the request of his fair mistress, in the early 
days of their passion, was the ' ' Filocopo." The found- 
ation of this tale resembles St. John's tales those of 
te The Seven Wise Masters," &c., which were adopted 
from Arabia, and coloured, in their details, by descrip- 
tions of Eastern manners, with which the conquest 
of Granada by the Moors, and the expeditions of the 
crusaders, varied the rude chivalry of the North. A 
Roman noble and his wife make a pilgrimage to 
Spain. The husband dies fighting against the Maho- 
metan Felix, king of Marmorina. His wife fell into 
the hands of the victor, and died at the court of Felix, 
on giving birth to her daughter Biancafiore, on the 
very day on which Florio, the son of Felix, was born. 
The children were educated together. The parentage 
of Biancafiore was unknown, her parents having died 
without declaring their names and descent from the 
Scipios and Csesars ; but, despite her obscure origin, 
Florio becomes enamoured of his lovely companion ; 
and his father, enraged by this ill-assorted attachment, 
separates them ; and, after cruelly persecuting the un- 
fortunate girl, at last sells her to a merchant, who takes 
her to Alexandria, where she is bought by a noble, who 
shuts her up in a tower. Florio wanders into various 
countries to seek her; they go through a variety of 
disasters, which end in their happy marriage ; and, 
the birth of Biancafiore being discovered, they are con- 

* Rime. 


, verted to the Christian faith. The story is long drawn 
out and very unreadable ; though interspersed by traits 
of genius peculiar to Boccaccio, natural touches of 
genuine feeling, and charming descriptions. Florio, 
during his erratic travels in search of Biancafiore, 
arrives at Naples : the author introduces him into the 
company of his lady and himself, under the names of 
Fiammetta and Caleone. 

Having once engaged in writing, Boccaccio became 
very diligent : his next work was a poem, entitled the 

1 " Teseide," or the " Thesiad." The subject is familiar 
to the English reader, as the "Knight's Tale" in Chaucer, 
modernised by Dry den, under the title of (t Palamon 
i and Arcite." Boccaccio was, if not the inventor of the 
ottava rima, or octave stanza (some Sicilian and French 
poets are supposed to have preceded him in the use of 
it), yet the first to render it familiar to the Italians. 
It has been duly appreciated by them, and used, as pe- 
culiarly adapted to narrative poetry. The ease with 
which the Italian language lends itself to rhythm and to 
rhyme, enabled Boccaccio to dress his thoughts in the 

* guise of poetry ; but he was, essentially, not a poet. It 
were too long to enter here into the distinction between 
the power of the imagination which creates fable and 
character, and even produces ideal imagery, and the 
peculiar attributes of poetry, which consists in a greater 

force and concentration of language, and an ear for the 
framing poetic numbers. The sublimity, yet delicacy, 
of Dante, the grace and harmony of Petrarch, are quite 
unapproached by Boccaccio : nor, indeed, can he com- 
pete with even the second and third rate of Italian 

J poets. His style is diffuse and incult, and altogether 
wanting in the higher graces of poetic diction. Still, 

'' there is nature, pathos, and beauty in the narration. 
The story of the " Thesiad," if unborrowed, and there 
is no previous trace of it, is worthy of the author of 
the ' ' Decameron : " it is full of passion and variety. 
He had the merit, also, of discarding the machinery of 
dreams and visions, then so much in vogue among his 


countrymen, which took from their compositions all 
reality and truth of feeling giving us empty per- 
sonifications, instead of fellow-creatures, formed of flesh 
and blood. 

Boccaccio had not long enjoyed the favour of his 1342. 
lady, when he was obliged to return to Florence. His ^ Etat 
father had lost his wife and children, and recalled his 
son, to be the companion of his declining years. He 
separated himself from the lady Mary with infinite 
regret ; a feeling which she so fully shared, that he 
afterwards wrote a work, entitled " La Fiammetta," in 
which she, as the narratress, gives the history of their J 
attachment, and complains bitterly of the misery they 
suffered during their separation. There is less of re- 
dundancy, and more unaffected nature in this work than 
in his former ; and the commencement calls up forcibly J 
the author of the ' ' Decameron," from the vividness and 
strength of the language. In one respect, his visit to 
Florence, at this time, was evidently beneficial : it fami- ^ 
liarised him with the pure and elegant language of 
Tuscany : he does not allude to it ; but the barbarous 
dialect of Naples must have injured his style ; and we 
cannot doubt that he recognised at once, and adopted, 
the expressive idiom of his native town. The " De- 
cameron " is a model of the Tuscan dialect, if such 4 
a name can be given to a tongue differing from the 
Italian spoken in every other portion of the peninsula, 
and infinitely superior to all in grace, energy, and con- 

He found his home, with his father, sufficiently dis- A 
agreeable. * The house was gloomy and silent ; nor 
was the sound of gaiety ever heard within its walls. His 
father was far advanced in years, and had grown, if he 
had not always been, avaricious and discourteous, dis- 
contented and reproachful; so that the necessity of seeing 
him every day, of each evening returning to his melan- 
choly abode, cast a shadow over Boccaccio's life. e ' Ah ! " 

* Ameto. 


he exclaims, " how happy are the independent, who 
possess themselves in freedom ! " To add to his dissatis- 
faction, Florence was suffering under the oppression of 
J Walter de Brienne, duke of Athens ; whom the people 
had, in a moment of despondency, set over themselves, 
and who proved a cruel and gloomy tyrant ; till, un- 
ahle to endure any longer his sanguinary despotism, the 
citizens rose against him, and regained their liberty. 

Boccaccio's chief amusement was derived from his 
pen. He wrote the " Ameto," a composition of min_ 
J gled prose and verse, the first of a kind, since adopted 
by Sannazaro and sir Philip Sidney. The " Ameto" 
is a story somewhat resembling "Cymon and Iphi- 
genia," in which he again introduces himself and his 
lady, as he informs the reader, bidding those attend 
who have a clear understanding, and they will find a 
hidden truth disclosed in his verses. But a more 
agreeable change was at hand, to relieve him from his 

* painful position. His father married again, and he was 

permitted to return to Naples. 

1344. He found great alterations in this city. King Robert 
JEtat was dead. His daughter Jane succeeded to him : her 

' dissentions with her husband produced a violent party 
spirit among the courtiers, while the pursuit of pleasure 
was the order of the day. A Court of Love, in imit- 

J ation of those held in Provence, was instituted, over 
which the lady Mary presided. The lovers continued 
fondly attached to each other, though jealousies and 
trifling quarrels somewhat diversified the otherwise 
even course of their loves. The lady passed several 

J months each summer at Baiae, amidst a society given 
up to amusement, and to the indulgence of the greatest 
libertinism. From some unknown cause, Boccaccio 
did not accompany her on these occasions, and he was 
tormented by a thousand doubts, fearing that the dis- 

> solute manners of the court would corrupt her, whom 
he calls a mirror of chaste love, and injure her faith 
towards him. During one of these absences he 
wrote Iiis poem of " Filostrato," on the subject of 


Troilus and Cressida, which he dedicated as a kind of 
peace-offering to his lady. He wrote also the " Amorosa 
Fiammetta," which is her fancied complaint, while he was 
at Florence, and the " Amorosa Visione," or Vision of 
Love ; which is more poetic in its diction than any of 
his previous works in verse, though it labours under the 
disadvantage of being an acrostic ; the initial letters of 
each verse forming a series of sonnets and canzoni, ad- 
dressed in the same initials to tc Madonna Maria." 

During the period when the plague desolated the 1348. 
world, Boccaccio occupied himself by writing the &***. 
" Decameron," to amuse, it is said, queen Jane and her 85 * 
court. He gives a somewhat different account in the J 
preface. He tells us in it : " From my youth until the 
present time, I have been inflamed by an aspiring love 
for one more noble perhaps than befitted my obscure 
birth ; for which passion I was praised even by the more 
discreet among those who knew of it, and held in high 
repute ; and yet it was the cause to me of much trouble 
and suffering, not certainly through the cruelty of the 
lady I loved, but from the pain I endured when separ- 
ated from her. During which time I enjoyed so much 
relief from the agreeable conversation and kind conso- 
lations of a friend, that I truly believe, that but for 
them I had died.. But it has pleased him, who 
decreed that all earthly things should have an end, that 
my attachment, which no fear, shame, nor advice could 
lessen, has by course of time so abated, that, while I 
still love, I am no longer the victim of uncontrollable 
passion. Yet I still remember the benefits I formerly 
received from those who sympathised in my pains ; and 
I propose to myself, as a mark of gratitude to them, to 
afford to others, labouring as I once did, the same relief 
which was before bestowed upon me. And who will 
deny that this book belongs rather to women than men. 
Fearfully and with shame they conceal within their ten- 
der hearts that flame which is fiercer when hidden ; and 
who, besides this, are so restrained from the enjoyment 
of pleasure by the will of those around them, that they 


most frequently struggle with their feelings, and revolve 
divers thoughts, which cannot he all gay, within the 
little circuit of their chamber, which must occasion heavy 
grief and melancholy, if unrelieved by conversation. All 
which things do not happen to men ; who, if afflicted, 
2an frequent society hunt, shoot, ride, and play and 
have a thousand modes of amusing themselves. And, 
therefore, to counterbalance the unequal award of fortune, 
who gives most to bear to those who are weakest, I in- 
tend to relate, for the amusement and refuge of gentle 
ladies who love, one hundred stories, fables, parables, or 
histories, or whatever you please to call them, narrated, 
during the course of ten days, by seven ladies and 
three cavaliers, who assembled together at a villa during 
the late pestilence." 

His description of the plague in Florence, in the in- 
troduction, is the finest piece of writing that Boccaccio 
ever composed : it presents a pathetic, eloquent, and 
vivid picture of the sufferings induced by that remorse- 
less malady. It is a curious fact, that there is every 
proof that Boccaccio was residing at Naples during the 
visitation of the plague in 1348 ; but it required no vio- 
lent effort of the imagination to paint the disasters of his 
native city, as Naples itself presented a similar tragedy: 
nor is there any thing in the description that stamps it 
as peculiarly belonging to Florence. 

The seven young ladies of the tales meet on a Wed- 
nesday morning in the church of Santa Maria Novella, 
and there agree to leave the miserable city, and to be- 
take themselves, with three gentlemen from among their 
friends, to one of the villas in the environs, and, shutting 
out all sight and memory of the frightful disasters they 
had witnessed, to strive, in the enjoyment of innocent 
pleasures, to escape from danger. ee Nor," the lady 
says, who proposed this nlan, "can we be said to aban- 
don any one, for it is we who are abandoned ; and 
remember, that our innocent flight is less blamable than 
the guilty remaining of others." 

The Italians have taken great pains to discover the 


exact spots to which the company of the Decameron * 
retreated. They are found not far from Florence.* The 
father of Boccaccio possessed a small villa in the village 
of Majano, and his son pleased himself by describing 
the adjacent country ; and in particular, the pleasant 
uplands and fertile valleys of the hills around Fiesole, 
which are in the neighbourhood. It is said that Villa 
Gherardi was the first place to which the ladies betook J 
themselves ; and Villa Palmieri is recognised in the 
description of the sumptuous abode to which they after- 
wards removed, to escape being disturbed by visiters. 
In the exquisite description of the narrow valley 
to which Eliza conducts her companions, and where < 
they bathe, we discern the little plain surrounded by 
hills, through which the Affrico flows ; when, after 
having divided two hills, and descended from the rocky 
heights, it collects itself into a gentle stream, under the 
Claustro della Doccia of Fiesole. 

The assembly being gathered together in this delight- 
ful spot, among other modes of amusing themselves, 
they agree that each one should narrate a tale every J 
day; and during the ten days which form the (f Decame- 
ron," a hundred tales are thus related. They give some 
kind of rule to their amusement, by fixing on a subject 
for each tale ; as for instance, on one day each person f, 
is to tell a story in which, after much suffering, the 
disasters of the hero or heroine come to a happy con- 
clusion. In another, the tale is to end unhappily. The 2 
stories vary from gay to pathetic, and in the last, Boc- 
caccio is inimitable in delicacy and tenderness of feeling. 

All the other works of Boccaccio would have fallen ^ 
into oblivion, had he not written the " Decameron :" they 
are scarcely read, even though bearing his name ; they 
are heavy and uninteresting ; his poetry is not poetry ; 
his prose is long-winded ; but the " Decameron ;" bears 
the undoubted stamp of genius. His language is a " well * 
of Tuscan undefiled," whence, as from its purest source, 

* BaldellL 
VOL. I. K 


all future writers have drawn the rules and examples 
which form the correct and elegant Italian style. It 
possesses, to an extraordinary degree, the charm of elo- 
quence. It imports little whence he drew the ground- 

work of his tales ; yet, as far as we know, many of them 
are original, and the stories of Griselda and Cymon, of 
the pot of Bazil, and the sorrows of Ghismonda, are 
unborrowed from any other writer. The tenderness, 
the passion, the enthusiasm, the pathos, and ahove all, 
the heartfelt nature of his best tales, raise him to the 
highest rank of writers of any age or country. His 

^ defects were of the age. Boccaccio's mind was tar- 
nisKed by the profligacy of the court of Naples. He 
mirrors the licentious manners of the people about him 
in his " Decameron :" it were better for human nature, 
that neither the reality nor the reflection had ever existed. 
The faults of the book rendered it obnoxious, especially 

- to the priests, whom he, in common with all the novel- 
ists of his time, treats with galling ridicule. Salvano- 

* rola preached against it, and so excited the minds of 
his fellow citizens, that they brought all their copies of 
the " Decameron," as well as of, it may be remarked, 
the blameless poetry of Petrarch and Dante, into the 
Piazza de' Signori on the last day of the carnival of 
1497* and made a bonfire of them: on which account 
the earlier editions of these books are very rare. After 

> Salvanorola, it continued on the list of prohibited books. 
This occasioned emended editions to be published, 
some of which were so altered as scarcely to retain any 
thing of the original. It was after many years and 
with great industry, that the " Decameron" was re- 
stored. The* first entire edition was published through 

* the care of a society of young Florentines, who were 
ashamed of the disgraceful condition to which this cele- 
brated work was reduced: this was published in 1527, 
and goes by the name of the " Ventisettana," or twenty- 
seventh, and of the ' ' Delphin." After this, however, only 
mutilated editions were printed, and even now, as it 
still continues a prohibited book, any perfect edition 


bears on the title-page the name of some protestant town, 
London or Amsterdam, as the place where it is printed. 

To return to the author. During the year of the 1350. 
jubilee Boccaccio returned to Florence, and the lady -3tat. 
Mary was spoken of no more, except in a sonnet, written 
many years after, on the death of Petrarch, which al- 
ludes to her death. He addresses his lost friend as having 
entered that heavenly kingdom after which he had long 
aspired, that he might again see Laura, and where 
his beautiful Fiammetta sat with her before God. Whe- 
ther the lady died, therefore, before or after his removal 
to Florence cannot be told ; we have his own authority 
for knowing, that by this time his ardent passion was - 
subdued into calm affection. His father as well as his 
mother-in-law was dead, and they had left a young son j 
Jacopo, to whom Boccaccio became guardian. His pecu- 
niary resources had been derived through his father from 
Florence, and it became necessary to take his place in 
that city. From this time he continued to reside in 
Tuscany, and to fulfil the duties of a citizen. One of 
the occurrences that marked his return, was a visit from - 
Petrarch, who passed through Florence on his return 
from his pilgrimage to Rome, on occasion of the jubilee. 
They were already in correspondence ; and Boccaccio 
had seen the poet in his glory nine years before at Na- 
ples. But now they met for the first time as friends, J 
and that intimacy commenced which lasted till the end 
of their lives. 

Boccaccio, on returning to his native city, entered on a 
busier scene of life from that which he led among the Nea- 
politan nobles. He was sent almost immediately on vari- 
ous embassies to the Ordelaffi, to Malalesta, and to Po- / 
lenta, lords of various towns of Romagna, for the purpose 
of engaging them in a league against the Visconti, who, 
being lords of the powerful city of Milan, and having 
lately acquired the signorship of Bologna, were desirous 
of extending their princely dominions beyond the Apen- 

He had soon after the happiness of being the bearer 
K 2 


1351. to Petrarch of the decree of the republic of Florence, 
JEtat. w hi c h restored his patrimony, and the letters which 
38 ' invited him to fill a professor's chair in their new uni- 
versity. During this visit they cemented their friend- 
ship. Petrarch was then residing at Padua, and his 
friend remained some weeks in his house. Boccaccio 

-J read or copied Petrarch's works, while the other pursued 
his ordinary studies ; and in the evening they sat in 
the poet's garden, which was adorned with the flowers 
and verdure of spring, and spent hours in delightful 
conversation. Their hearts were laid bare to each 

other, they sympathised in their taste for ancient learn- 
ing, in their love for their country, and in the views 
they entertained for the welfare of Italy.* Boccaccio 
brought back to Florence Petrarch's expressed intention 
to visit his native city. But other feelings interposed 
probably the poet was averse to mingle too nearly 
with the violent factions that agitated the republic. He 

-> soon after made a journey to Vaucluse, and never again 
entered Tuscany. 

Boccaccio was more of a citizen than his friend, 
and he fulfilled several offices intrusted to him by 
the government. Florence was at that time a little 
empire in itself, agitated by tumults, divided by intestine 
quarrels, and disturbed by wars with the neighbouring 

J states. Scarce a day passed without an event. The 
citizens were full of energy and fire ; volatile and rash, 
sometimes they acted a cowardly, sometimes a magnani- 
mous part. They were restless and versatile but am- 
bitious, and full of that quick intuitive genius which, 
even now, in their fallen state, belongs to them. They 
were at enmity with the Visconti, who incited against 
them the hostility of the great company, a band of 
mercenary troops, the off-pourings of the invasion of 
France by the English, which had entered Italy, and 
sold their services to different standards, or made war 
on their own account for booty only. The peasants of 

* Petrarch's Letters. 


the Florentine territory had gone out valiantly against 
them, and afterwards, assisted by the whole forces of the 
state, they attacked and destroyed these pernicious ban- J 
dits. Still the Visconti continued powerful and im- 
placable enemies. Boccaccio was sent to Bohemia to 1353. 
invite Louis of Bavaria, Marquis of Brandenburgh, ^ tat - 
to come to the assistance of Florence and its league. 
At another time he was despatched to Avignon, on 1354. 
occasion of the entrance of the emperor Charles into ^ tot 
Italy, to discover the intentions of the pope with regard 
to this monarch. 

These political negotiations could not be carried on 
by Boccaccio without inspiring him with violent party 
feelings : he hated the Visconti as tyrants, and as dis- * 
turbers of the peace of Italy. He heard with pain and 
indignation that Petrarch had taken up his abode at J 
Milan, under the protection of its archbishop and lord, 
Giovanni Visconti. He wrote to his friend to express . 
his regret and disapprobation. " I would be silent," he * 
wrote, " but I cannot ; reverence restrains, but indig- 
nation impels me to speak. How has Petrarch forgotten 
his dignity, the conversations which we have held to- 
gether concerning the state of Italy, his hatred of the 
archbishop, his love of solitude and independence, so 
far as to imprison himself at the court of Milan ? As 
easily could I believe that the wolf fled the lamb, and 
the tiger became the prey of the fawn, as that Petrarch 
should act against the dictates of his conscience; and that 
he who called the Visconti a Polyphemus, and a mon- 
ster of pride, cruelty, and despotism, should place himself 
under his yoke. How could Visconti win that which 
no pontiff, which neither Robert of Naples nor the em- 
peror could obtain ? Have you done this because the 
citizens of your native town have treated you with con- 
tempt, and taken back the patrimony which they at one 
time restored?"* 

* This singular circumstance is not noticed by Petrarch in any of his 
letters. Did the Florentines act thus to punish him for his journey to 
Avignon, at the time they had invited him to take up his abode among 
K 3 


Petrarch's answer was moderate ; his habits were 
peaceful and recluse, and he preferred trusting an abso- 
lute prince who was attached to him, with his safety, 
to confiding to the caprice of a mob. Personal inter- 
course also had shown him that the man whom he had 
denounced so bitterly from political animosity, was 
worthy of private friendship : he was unwilling to enter 
the very focus of dissention, such as Florence then was, 
and he sacrificed his public hatred to the gentler feelings 
of personal friendship and gratitude. " It is not likely," 
he says in his answer, " that I should learn servitude 
in my old age ; but if I become dependent, is it not 
better to submit to one, than, like you, to a whole people 
of tyrants? " Petrarch was a patriot in an elevated sense 
of the word : he exerted himself to civilise his country, 
and to spread abroad the blessings of knowledge ; peace 
was his perpetual cry; but in the various tyrannies that 
distracted Italy, he saw the same ambition under dif- 
ferent forms ; and taking no part with one against the 
other, but with the general good against them all, he 
held himself free to select his friends as sympathy and 
kindness dictated. 

Boccaccio continued to correct and add to his Deca- 
meron, which it is conjectured was published at this 
time. It spread rapidly through Italy ; its popularity 
astounded even the author, and must have gratified 
him, though aware of its errors, and tendency to injure 
the principles of social life. This sentiment increased 
in after-times, so that he reproached his friend Mainardo 
de' Cavalcanti, a Florentine by birth, but living at the 
court of the queen of Naples, for having promised his 
wife and other ladies of his house that they should read 
the Decameron. He entreats him to revoke this promise 
for his own sake, and theirs, that their minds might not 
be contaminated by narrations in which delicacy and 
even decency were forgotten ; " and if not for their 

them? Yet, on another occasion, the citizens petitioned the pope to give 
the poet a benefice within their walls, and so induce him to inhabit their 
city. Perhaps the expression used in Boccaccio's letter is ironical. 


sake," he continues, " for the sake of my honour. They 
will, on reading it, think me the most wicked and licen- 
tious of men ; for who will be near to allege in my 
excuse that I wrote it while young, and urged to the 
work by commands not to be disobeyed ? " 

Worse for the fame of Boccaccio than the blots that 
slur the beauty of the Decameron, is a work, which it 
is to be lamented fell from his pen. This was entitled 
the <f Corbaccio." He fell in love with a beautiful and * 
noble widow of Florence, who treated him with scorn 
and derision, and he revenged himself by this pro- 
duction, in which he vilifies the whole sex in general, 
and this lady in particular, in a style that prevents any 
one of the present day from attempting to read it. 

While we lament such gross ill taste, it is agreeable < 
to forget it, and to record and remember the vast bene- 
fits which Boccaccio bestowed on mankind, through his 
ardent and disinterested love of letters, and especially his 
extraordinary efforts to create and diffuse a knowledge 
of the Greek language and writers. In this labour he 
far excelled Petrarch, who possessed a Homer, but was 
unable to read it. 

He proved his enthusiasm in the most undeniable 
manner. ( He was born poor, even to privation ; yet he 
spent large sums of money in the acquisition of ancient - 
manuscripts : he transcribed many with his own hand. 
His labours in this way were immense : many volumes 
of the poets, orators, and historians, were copied by him : 
among these are mentioned the whole of the works of 
Tacitus and Livy, Terence and Boetius, with various 
treatises of Cicero and Varro, besides many of the pro- 
ductions of the fathers. He made journeys in search of 
manuscripts, and records one anecdote, which shows 
how often disappointment must have attended his la- 
bours. He visited the celebrated convent of Monte 
Cassino, under the idea that he might find some ancient 
manuscripts, hitherto unknown. He asked for the library, 
and was taken up a ladder into a loft, exposed to the wea- 
, K 4 


ther, where the books were lying on the floor moth-eaten, 
and covered with damp mould. While he indignantly re- 
garded the materials of learning which lay desolate before 
him, he was told, to add to his horror, that the monks 
were in the habit of effacing the writing from their 
venerable parchments, and of replacing it by scraps from 
the ritual, for which they found a ready sale among the 
neighbouring villagers. 

Nor was his enthusiasm, like Petrarch's, confined to 
the ancients. He could not only feel and appreciate 
the genius of Dante, but exerted himself to inspire 
others with the admiration with which he was filled. 
He awoke the Florentines to a just sense of the merits 

J of this sublime poet, and persuaded them to erect a 
professorship in their university for the explanation of 
the Divina Commedia. He himself first filled the chair, 
and wrote a commentary on several of the books, be- 
sides a Life of Dante. This has been usually considered 
unau then tic, but it is difficult to see on what grounds 
this judgment rests. He takes the account of Dante's 
love of Beatrice from his own work of the Vita Nuova ; 
and in all other particulars of his life the information 

-i he gives is slight ; but, as far as we are enabled to form 
an opinion, correct. His genuine enthusiasm for the 
beauties of his favourite author led him to regret that 

4 Petrarch did not sufficiently admire him. He copied 
for his use the whole of his poem with care and ele- 
gance, and sent it to the laureate, with a poetic epistle, 
in which he besought him to bestow more attention and 
admiration on their illustrious countryman. Petrarch 

^ was bigoted to the notion that any thing written in the 
vulgar tongue was beneath the regard of a learned man ; 
and received his present with a coldness that penetrates 
through his assumed praises. This celebrated manu- 
script belongs to the Vatican library. The epistle men- 
tioned is addressed " To Francis Petrarch, illustrious and 
only poet," and is subscribed " thy Giovanni da Cer- 
taldo." The manuscript is illuminated, and the arms 
of Petrarch, consisting of a gold bar in an azure field. 


with a star, adorns the head of each canto. There are 
a few notes of emendation, and the whole is written in 
a clear and beautiful hand. By a strange oversight, no 
care has been taken to collate any modern edition of ' 
Dante with this celebrated copy. 

Boccaccio's endeavours to promote the study of 
Greek were still more eminent and singular. At a time J 
when~literature was just struggling into notice, it was not 
strange that a foreign tongue should be entirely forgot- 
ten. The knowledge of Greek had been slightly spread ~> 
during the crusades, when the inhabitants of the West 
frequently visited Constantinople ; and afterwards the 
commercial relations of Venice and Genoa prevented it 
from being wholly extinguished. But the language 
thus brought into use was merely colloquial, and was to * 
a great degree superseded by the Lingua Franca. Pe- 
trarch had read a few of the dialogues of Plato with 
bishop Barlaam, but his knowledge was very slight. 
To Boccaccio the praise is due of unwearied and sue- * 
cessful labour in the cause of Hellenic literature. He 
had studied, while at Naples, under Barlaam and Paolo 
Perugino ; but his chief efforts had their date from the 
period of his establishing himself at Florence. Poor as 
he was, he spared no expense in collecting manuscripts, 
so that it is suspected that all the Greek books possessed J 
by the Tuscans, and all the knowledge of them diffused 
through Europe, before the taking of Constantinople, 
which was extensive, at least in Italy, was derived from 
the labours, and procured at the expense, of Boccaccio. 
When he visited Petrarch at Milan, the laureate men- 
tioned to him incidentally, one Leonzio Pilato, a Cala- 
brian, who, having spent almost all his life in Greece, 
called himself a native of that country. This man pos- 
sessed a perfect knowledge of the language : Petrarch J 
had met him at Verona, and they read a few passages of 
Homer together. Boccaccio saw in this a favourable 
opportunity for facilitating his laudable attempt to 
make the Greek language a part of the liberal education 
of his countrymen. Pilato was at Venice : Boccaccio 


obtained a decree from the Florentine government for 
the erection of a Greek professorship in their university, 
carried it to Venice, and persuaded Pilato to accept the 
office,, and to return with him to Florence, where he 
lodged him at his own house.* They laboured together 
> to make a Latin translation of Homer, which Boccaccio 
transcribed with his own hand. The total want of 
lexicons and grammars rendered the undertaking incon- 
ceivably arduous j and not least among the difficulties 
with which Boccaccio had to struggle was the violent, 
untameable, and morose disposition of ^his guest. This 
was the man whojrf Petrarch supposed could never have 
smiled, and whose manners were so savage, that he 
declared that not even his love of Greek could induce 
him to invite him a second time to his house. His 
aspect was repulsive, his habits disgusting, his conver- 
sation gloomy and unsocial. He was proud and violent, 
and, detesting the Italians, made no secret of his 
abhorrence ; and, discontented with himself and others, 
he was always wishing himself elsewhere than where he 
was. Yet the courteous and amiable Boccaccio, who 
was accustomed to the refinement of a court, and who 
loved the elegance and gaiety of society, kept him under 
his roof for three years, humouring his whims, and 
studying in his company. 

j Meanwhile his moral habits underwent a beneficial 
change, owing to the admonitions and example of 
J359. Petrarch. He visited this excellent man at Milan, and 
^ Et * t - spent several weeks in an intimate intercourse, which 
' was of the greatest service to him to the end of 
his days. Petrarch, whose soul was purified by the 
struggles of his passion for a noble-minded woman, 
taught him that learning was of small avail to its pos- 
sessor, unless combined with moral principle and vir- 
tuous habits. These conversations awoke in Boccaccio's 
mind a desire to vanquish his passions. He saw and 
loved the example of delicacy and honour set him by 

* Guignenfe. 


his friend ; and although he could not all at once suc- 
ceed in imitating him, he became aware of what his 
duties were : his cojiscience awoke, and a love of right J 
was engendered, which enabled him, in process of time, 
to triumph over the habits and vices by which he had 
hitherto been enslaved. 

A singular circumstance achieved the work begun by 
his inestimable friend. Boccaccio's vivacious and sen- 
sitive mind could with difficulty be brought to act from 
the mere influence of reason. But the change which a 
love of moral truth and the dictates of good taste were 
inefficacious to operate, was brought about by the agency * 
of superstition and fear. 

One day a Carthusian monk arrived at Certaldo, and 1361 
demanded an interview with Boccaccio, who received ^ tat 
him with kindness, and listened to him with attention. 
The monk first related, that there had lately lived in his 
convent at Siena a brother named Pietro Petroni, a * 
man of singular piety, who was accustomed to pray with 
extreme fervour for the conversion of the wicked. On 
his death-bed he had called his companion, Giovacchino 
Ciani, to his bedside, and gave him various messages, ' 
to be delivered to a number of persons, to the pur- 
port that they should change their lives, and study how 
to be saved. As soon as the monk was dead, Ciani de- * 
parted to fulfil his commission, and in the first place 
came to Certaldo. He then made an exposition of 
Boccaccio's errors, and above all of the wide-spreading 
evils occasioned by his writings, and which were a 
snare and a temptation to the young, imploring him 
to turn his talents, which he had hitherto exerted in 
the service of the spirit of evil, to the glory of God 
and the saints ; telling him that he had been incited 
by a vain glory, which made him rather seek the ap- 
plause of the world than the favour of his Creator; 
and what reward could he expect, except eternal punish- 
ment hereafter ? " I do not spare your ears," con- > 
tinued the zealous Ciani, (< and am the less scrupu- 
lous, because Petroni speaks through me, who is now 


looking down from heaven upon us. Therefore, in the 
words of that blessed man, I exhort, entreat, and com- 
mand you to change your sinful course of life, to cast 
aside your poetical studies, and to become a disciple and 
inculcator of divine truth. If you refuse to obey my 
voice, I predict, in his name, a miserable end to your 
depravity, and a speedier death than you anticipate ; 
so that your profane studies and life shall at once be 
brought to an end ; " and to add the force of super- 
natural revelation to his words, he communicated to 
Boccaccio several events of his life, which he presumed 
to be only known to himself, but which had been reveal- 
ed to the monk by Petroni ; and then he took his leave, 
saying, that he was about to fulfil a similar mission to 
several others, and that among them he should visit 

Boccaccio was _aghast. Superstitious fear shook his 
soul ; Tie gave credulous ear to what he was told, and 
resolved to give himself up to sacred studies and peni- 
tence. His first impulse was to sell his library and to 
abandon poetry altogether: meanwhile he communicated 
the visit he had received, and the effect that it had on 
him, to his dear friend and monitor, Petrarch. 

Petrarch had subjected himself, during all his life, 
to moral discipline ; he was a self-seeker and a self- 
reprover. He was not so easily shaken from the calm 
tenor of his piety and faith by prognostics and denun- 
ciations ; he replied to his friend in a letter full of good 
sense and kind feeling. In those days a letter was a 
treatise ; ancient history was ransacked, and the whole 
learning of the writer poured out in a/ torrent. But 
there are passages which deserve to be quoted. " False- 
hood and imposture," he wrote, " often disguise them- 
selves in the habit of religion ; out I will not pronounce 
any . decided opinion till I have seen the messenger. 
The age of the man, his countenance, eyes, manners, 
gestures, his voice and words, and, above all, the sum 
and purport of what he says, will serve to enlighten me. 
It is announced to you that you have but a short 


time to live, and that you must renounce poetry and 
profane literature. These words at first filled me with 
consternation and grief. How could I anticipate your 
death without tears ? But, on further reflection, I am 
led to consider that you look with terror and regret on 
what ought really to be a matter of rejoicing, for thus 
you are detached from the world, and brought, as we 
all ought, to meditate upon death, and to aspire to that 
height where no worldly temptation intrudes to con- 
taminate the soul. You will learn from these admo- 
nitions to control your passions, and to reform your 
habits of life. But I exhort you not to abandon books 
and learning, which nauseate and injure the weak only, 
but which invigorate and comfort the strong-minded." 

After placing these considerations in various and 
strong lights, Petrarch concludes by saying, " If you 
continue to adhere to your purpose, and determine not 
only to relinquish study, but to cast aside the instru- 
ments of learning, I shall be delighted to possess your 
books ; and I would rather buy them, than that the li- 
brary of so great a man should be scattered abroad in the 
world.* I cannot name a price, not knowing their value 
nor number. Think of these things, and reflect whether 
you cannot, as I have long wished, pass the remainder 
of your days with me. As to your debt to me, I do not 
know of it, nor understand this foolish scruple of con- 
science. You owe me nothing except love ; nor that, 
since each day you pay me : except, indeed, that, re- 
ceiving continually from me, you still continue to owe. 
You complain of poverty. I will not bring forward the 
usual consolations, nor allege the examples of illustrious 
men, for you know them already. I applaud you for 
having preferred poverty, combined with independence, 

It is not creditable to the learning of those times to learn, that the li- 
braries of these two great revivers of knowledge were lost to the world 
soon after their deaths. Boccaccio's, it is true, was destroyed by an acci. 
dent, being burnt when the convent to which he had left it was consumed 
by fire. But Petrarch's mouldered away in the palace given by the repub- 
lic of Venice for its reception and preservation, so that dusty fragments 
were afterwards found to be all that remained of the venerable parchments 
which the laureate had expended so much time and labour in collecting. 


to the riches and slavery that were offered you; but I do 
not praise you for refusing the solicitations of a friend. I 
am not able to enrich you ; if I were I should use 
neither words nor pen, but speak to you in deeds. But 
what is sufficient for one is enough for two ; one house 
may surely suffice for those who have but one heart. 
Your disinclination to come injures me, and it is more 
injurious if you doubt my sincerity." 

Boccaccio was convinced by his friend, and the ex- 
* _cess of his penitence and zeal died away; but the refpjm. 
of his moral character was permanent. He adopted the 
clerical dress, and endeavoured to suppress those writ- 
ings which scandalised the pious. 

He was very poor : his patrimony was slender, and 
J shared with his brother Jacopo, and diminished also by 
various expenses incurred in his zeal to procure books 
and advance learning. He had passed a life of freedom, 
however, and shrunk from servitude. The passage in 
Petrarch's letter which refers to this, concerns his hav- 
ing refused the honourable and lucrative, but onerous 
post, of apostolic secretary ; nor was he tempted by 
Petrarch's invitation, being unwilling to burthen one 
whose means were very limited. He, however, fell into 
a most painful mistake when he accepted the offer of a 
wealthy patron, which originated pride, and not affection. 
The seneschal Acciajuplo was a Florentine, settled at 
Naples ; he had long been the counsellor and friend of 
Louis, prince of Tarento, second husband of queen 
Jane. He had accompanied him in his flight to France, 
and stood by him during his adversity. When the 
affairs of Naples were settled, and Jane and Louis re- 
stored to the throne, Acciajuolo became the first man in 
the kingdom : he was made seneschal ; but his power and 
influence were limited by no mere place. He had pre- 
tensions to learning, and was the friend and correspond- 
1363. ent of Petrarch : he was proud and arrogant, and wished 
J&ta*- to be esteemed a munificent man. He invited Boc- 
' caccio to come and take up his abode in his palace at 
Naples, and to employ himself in writing a history of 


the seneschal's life. Boccaccio was seduced, by a belief 
in the reality of his friendship and the nobleness of his 
generosity, to accept his offer. He was received by the ' 
great man with apparent pleasure, and with many pro- 
mises of future benefit ; but he was undeceived as to 
the kindness of his welcome, when he was led to the w 
chamber destined for his accommodation. The seneschal 
lived in a magnificent palace, adorned with all the lux- 
uries known in those days : the room assigned to 
Boccaccio was mean and squalid ; it contained one dirty, 
ill-furnished bed, for himself and his brother Jacopo, 
and he was placed at the same table with the stable > 
boys and the lower servants of the house, together with 
a whole host of needy hangers-on. Boccaccio's neces- 
sities were not so great as to force him to endure this J 
unworthy treatment, and his spirit revolted against it. 
He removed at once to the house of his friend, Mai- * 
nardo de' Cavalcanti, by whom he was cordially and 
honourably received ; and rinding, on a second trial, to 
which he was urged by the servile advice of some 
friends, that Acciajuolo was wholly ignorant of the 
duties of hospitality, and totally deficient in generosity 
and delicacy, he left Naples and proceeded to Venice. 

He here passed three happy months with Petrarch. J 
The Greek, Leonzio Pilato, joined them. Their society 
consisted of either learned men, or the Venetian no- 
bility ; and the friends reaped great enjoyment from the 
intimacy and unreserve of their intercourse. After the 
lapse of three months Boccaccio returned to Florence, ^ 
though the plague was raging there, and Petrarch en- 
tertained a thousand fears on his account. 

An abode in Florence was nevertheless ill suited to 
the new course of life which he proposed to himself. 
The city was perpetually disturbed by domestic strife, J 
or the treachery of the foreign princes, whom they 
called in to their assistance in time of war. Boccaccio 
retreated from this scene of discord, and took up his 
abode at the castle of Certaldo, where he gave himself 
entirely up to study : his house there is still to be seen. 


Certaldo is situated on a hill, and looks down on the 
fertile valley watered by the river Elsa.* The country 
around is picturesque, adorned hy various castles and 
rustic villages. The culture of corn, vines, and olives, 
adorns the depth of the valley and the uplands; and three 
successive harvests are brought in by the husbandman. 
Here Boccaccio composed most of his later works, and 
the influence of Petrarch is perceptible in his choice of 
subjects and language. This is to be greatly lamented, 
since his desertion of Italian was founded upon a mistake, 
which has given us, instead of works of imagination and 
genius, heavy treatises and inaccurate histories. Boc- 
caccio's Latin is bald and tame ; he knew nothing of 
the structure, and was unable to clothe his thoughts 
with the eloquence natural to him : he rattled the dry 
bones of the skeleton of a dead language, instead of 
making use of the young and vigorous tongue to which 
he had given birth. 

His first work, under this new direction, was one of 
great labour and erudition for those times, and was en- 
tered upon at the suggestion of Ugo IV., king of Cyprus 
and Jerusalem. It treats of the genealogy of the gods, 
and relates the connection between the various deities of 
the beautiful Greek mythology. For many years it 
continued to be a standard book, whence the Italians 
drew all their knowledge of the subject ; and it was 
doubtless a useful production. In pursuance of his 
plan of being the schoolmaster of his age, and intro- 
ducing his countrymen to the knowledge of forgotten 
lore, he afterwards composed a dictionary of ancient 
rivers, mountains, and forests. His active mind was 
always finding new subjects for his pen. He discovered 
that the female sex possessed no historian, and he dedi- 
cated himself to their service by writing the lives of il- 
lustrious women. In this he describes the ideal of a 
virtuous matron, and goes to the extreme usual to a re- 
formed libertine. Her conduct must not only be strictly 

* Baldelli 


correct, but she must not even look about her ; she 
must speak little, eat little, and avoid singing and 
dancing. Given up to domestic cares, she must be simple J 
in her dress, and even love her husband moderately. 
He wrote after this a work entitled, " De Casibus Vi- 
rorum et Fseminarum Illustrium," in which he records 
the disasters and adversity which history relates to have 
befallen royal or noble personages. Thus his time was 
entirely spent among his books, and he acquired a re- J 
putation for learning and purity of life, which raised 
him high in the opinion of his fellow citizens. 

He was, in consequence,, appointed, on two occasions, 
ambassador to pope Urban V. In fulfilment of the first 1355 
mission, he went to Avignon, where he was honourably ^Etat 
received, especially by Philip de Cabassolles, the intimate 52 ' 
and beloved friend of Petrarch. On his return, he was 
very desirous of passing from Genoa to Pavia, to see the J 
laureate ; but the duties of his embassy forbade. To 
indemnify himself, he projected a visit to him at Venice. 
There is a Latin letter of his extant, which gives an 
interesting account of this latter journey : it is addressed 
to Petrarch, whom he missed, as he was again gone J 
to Pavia. Boccaccio did not hear of this circumstance 
till he reached Bologna ; and it almost made him give 
up his journey. " On my road," he writes, " I en- 
countered Francesco (the son-in-law of Petrarch^, to 
my great delight. After a glad and friendly meeting, 
I began to observe the person of this man. His placid - 
countenance, measured language, and mild manners 
pleased me : I praised your choice, as I praise all you 
do." On his arrival at Venice, " I received," he Says, 
" many invitations, and accepted that of Francesco 
Allegri. I would not avail myself of your kind offer, 
and take up my abode under your daughter's roof, 
during the absence of her husband. I should have 
preferred going to an inn to being the cause of the 
scandal that might have arisen, despite my grey hairs 
and fat unwieldy figure. 

" I went, however, to see Francesca ; who, when she 

VOL. I. L 


heard of my arrival, came to meet me with gladness, as 
if you yourself had returned : yet, when she saw me, 
she was abashed, blushed, and cast down her eyes; 
and then, after a timid welcome, she embraced me Avith 
filial and modest affection. After conversing together 
some little time, we went into your garden, and found 
several of your friends assembled. Here, in explicit 
and kind terms, she offered me your house, your 
books, and every thing belonging to you, in a matronly 
and becoming manner. While we were conversing, 
your beloved little granddaughter came up : she looked 
smilingly at me, and I took her with delight in my 
arms. At first, methought I saw my own child * : her 
face resembles hers the same smile, the same laughing 
eyes ; the gestures, gait, and carriage of her person, 
though a little taller for mine was only five years and a 
half old when I last saw her were all similar : if their 
dialect had been the same, their expressions would have 
resembled in their simplicity. I saw no difference, ex- 
cept that yours has golden hair, and that of mine 
was black. Alas ! while caressing and charmed by her 
talk, the recollection of my loss drew tears from my eyes; 
so that I turned my face away, to conceal my emotion. -j 

" I cannot tell you all that Francesco said and did 
upon his return ; his frequent visits when he found 
that I would not remove to his house ; and how hos- 
pitably he entertained me. One incident will suffice : 
knowing that I was poor, which I never denied, on my 
departure from Venice, at a late hour, he withdrew with 
me into another part of his house ; and, after taking 
leave, he stretched out his long arms, and, putting a 
purse into my hands, made his escape, before I could 
expostulate with or thank him." 

After having been gratified by these tokens of real 
friendship, Boccaccio suffered one of those mortifying 
disappointments which too often occur to those who are 

* It is unknown who was the mother of this child, or grandchild, who 
died so young. Boccaccio had, besides, one son established at Florence, 
whom he does not mention in his will, but who presided at his funeral, 
and erected a tomb over his remains. 


ready to trust to the good-will and offers of assistance of 
men who call themselves their friends. Niccolo di Monte- ^ 
falcone, abbot of the celebrated Carthusian monastery of 
San Stefano in Calabria, invited him to take up his abode 
with him, describing the agreeable situation of his house, 
its select library, and the leisure to be enjoyed there. 
Boccaccio accepted the invitation, and made the journey. 1370. 
He arrived late at night before the gates of the secluded " Etat 
monastery ; but, instead of the welcome he expected, 
he found that the abbot had left the convent hastily, in J 
the middle of the night, on purpose to avoid him. 
Boccaccio, justly indignant, wrote an angry letter, and, 
leaving the inhospitable retreat, repaired to Naples, 
where he was again cordially received by his friend J 
Mainardo de' Cavalcanti. 

During his visit to Naples, Boccaccio received many 
offers of hospitality and patronage : among others, queen 
Jane of Naples, and Giacomo king of Majorca, en- j 
deavoured to persuade him to enter into their service ; 
but Boccaccio was naturally proud and independent : 
he had been duped by an appearance of friendship, but 
recoiled from a state of servitude : he preferred his quiet - 
home at Certaldo to the favours of the great; nor 
could the renewed solicitations of Petrarch induce him 
to change his mind; and he returned to Tuscany. 
When he visited Naples again, it was merely for the 1372. 
sake of seeing his friends, without any ulterior view, -^tat. 
and he quickly returned to the quiet of Certaldo, 59 " 
where he busied himself in the publication of his work 1373. 
of the " Genealogy of the Gods." 

Age and infirmity advanced on him before their 
time : he was attacked by; a painful and disagreeable 
disease, which rendered life a burthen to hifn. He lost 
his strength, and the powers of his understanding; 
his limbs became heavy, and the light of heaven in- 
tolerable ; his memory was impaired, and his books 
no longer afforded him any pleasure. His thoughts 
were fixed upon the tomb, towards whkh he believed 
himself to be rapidly approaching. After having con- 
L 2 


tinned in this state for several months, he was one day 
seized with a violent fever, which increased towards 
night. His disturbed thoughts turned towards the past: 
his life appeared to him to have been wasted, and 
fruitful only of remorse. No friend was near him: 
his sole attendant was an old nurse, who, unable to 
penetrate the cause of his disquietude, annoyed him by 
her meaningless and vulgar consolations. His fever 
increased; he believed himself to be dying, and he 
feared to die. His courage, which had until now sus- 
tained, all at once deserted him. Hitherto he had 
avoided physicians, having no faith in the art : he was 
now driven to send for one, whose remedies afforded 
him relief, and restored him to some portion of health.* 

The energy of his mind returned with his bodily 
strength. He had laboured long to induce the Florentine 
government to bestow some honourable testimonial on the 
memory of the illustrious Dante. At length, a decree was 
promulgated, instituting a professorship for the public 
explanation of the "DivinaCommedia," so to promote, as 
it was expressed, the advancement of learning and virtue 
among the living and their posterity. The professorship 
was bestowed upon Boccaccio : he received a salary of 
one hundred florins a year, and delivered his lectures in 
the church of San Stefano. The result was his com- 
mentary on the first seventeen cantos of the " Inferno," 
written in a clear, simple, and elegant style, full of ex- 
cellent criticism and valuable illustrations. 

Thus the remnants of his failing strength were spent 
upon doing honour to the memory of the celebrated 
poet, whose genius he so warmly and generously ad- 
mired, and a depreciation of whom is the sole blot on 
the otherwise faultless character of Petrarch : but, 
while he roused his intellects to understand and com- 
ment upon the delicate and sublime beauties of Dante, 
his physical strength decayed, and his sensibility received 
a severe shock from the death of his beloved friend 

Baldelli, Cod. San. Epist. L 


Petrarch. He heard it first by public report ; and 1 374. 
it was afterwards confirmed to him in a letter from ^ tat - 
Francesco Brossano, the laureate's son-in-law, who 61> 
transmitted to him the legacy of fifty florins, for the 
purchase of a fur dress for his winter studies. Boc- 
caccio wrote, in return, a letter full of grief and ad- ^ 
miration. " He did not mourn," he said, (e for the 
dead, who was receiving the reward of his virtues, but 
for those who survived him, and were abandoned to the 
tempestuous sea of life without a pilot." He ivould 
have visited his tomb had his health permitted ; and he J 
besought Brossano to take care of his posthumous re- 
putation, and to publish his poem of " Africa," which 
was only known to the world in fragments. In com- 
pliance with his request, Brossano had the poem copied, 
and sent it to him ; but he did not live to receive it. 

He felt his end approaching, and Petrarch's death 
loosened his last tie to earth. He made his will, and named 
the sons of his brother Jacopo his heirs. He left legacies 
to those to whom he owed return for friendship and 
services ; and he concluded, by leaving his library, in 
the first instance, to his spiritual director, Martino da 
Signa, to go, after his death, to the convent of the 
Spirito Santo, at Florence, for the benefit of the 

He survived Petrarch one year only, and died at 
Certaldo, on the 2 1 st December, 1375, in the 63d year 
of his age. His death was occasioned by a malady 
of small moment in itself, but fatal in his debilitated 
state, and aggravated by his continual application. He 
was buried at Certaldo, in the church of SS. Jacopo 
and Filippo. His son presided at his funeral, and erected 
a tomb, on which was inscribed a Latin epitaph, com- 
posed by Boccaccio himself, in which he mentions that 
honourable love of literature which characterised him 
through life: " Patria Certaldum; studiumfuit alma 
poesis" He was lamented throughout Italy ; but his 
loss was chiefly deplored in his native city, as, during 
his residence there, he had redeemed his early follies 
L 3 


by a course of life devoted to the cultivation of liter- 
ature and religion, and the duties of a citizen. While 
all read with delight the purer productions of his ima- 
ginative genius, the learned of every age must feel 
grateful to his unwearied labours in the preservation of 
the ancient manuscripts, many of which, but for him,, had 
been lost for ever to the world. 





AFTER the deaths of Petrarch and Boccaccio, the 
cause of learning was, to a certain degree, lost. The 
study of Greek and the search for manuscripts was dis- 
continued. The first person who brought that language 
again into notice, was Emanuel Chrysoloras, a noble 
Greek, who was frequently sent into Italy on embassies 
by the emperor of Constantinople, and employed his lei- 
sure in teaching his native tongue in Florence. His 
disciples were numerous : among these, Poggio Brac- 
ciolini was the most distinguished. He discovered and 
collected a vast number of the most valuable manu- 
scripts. Besides the philosophic and beautiful poem of 
Lucretius, we owe to him the complete copies of-Quin- 
tilian, Plautus, Statius, Silius Italicus, Columella, and 
many others. Several of these exist only from the copy 
found by him, and were thus rescued from certain de- 
struction. " I did not find them in libraries," he 
says, " which their dignity demanded, but in a dark 
and obscure dungeon at the bottom of a tower, in which 
they were leading the life of the damned. Filelfo was 
also an ardent collector. The discussions between the 
Roman and Greek churches brought several Greek scho- 
lars and philosophers into Italy, and through them the 
Platonic doctrines were known to the Italians. Gemis- 1433. 
thus Pletho, who had been master of Chrysoloras, but 
who survived him many years, was their chief promul- 
gator. They were in opposition to the Aristotelian phi- 
losophy, which had so long been the only one taught 
L 4 


in the schools of Italy ; but their glowing beauty and 
imagination were adapted to enchant all who heard 
them. Cosmo de' Medici became their convert, and 
resolved to establish an academy at Florence for their 
study and propagation. He caused Marsiglio Ficino, 
the son of his favourite physician, to be educated for 
this purpose by the teachers of Platonic philosophy. 

1453. Cosmo was also the founder of the Medicean library. 
The taking of Constantinople by the Turks aided the 
advancement of learning ; and while Cosmo protected 
, many learned Greeks who took refuge at Florence, they 
spread refinement and knowledge throughout the penin- 

1464. Cosmo died soon after ; and as his son Piero did not 
long survive him,, Lorenzo succeeded to his wealth and 
political influence. Lorenzo had been brought up with 
solicitous attention. He was fortunate in his mother, 
Madonna Lucretia, a lady of considerable talents and 
accomplishments, a lover of learning, and patroness of 
learned men. He was first the pupil of Gentile d' Ur- 
bino, bishop of Arezzo ; and afterwards of Christofero 
Landirio ; and a warm attachment subsisted between 
master and pupil. He soon gave manifestations of 
the magnificence of his disposition; and his love of 
poetry developed itself at an early age. After the 
death of Cosmo, and his father Piero, however, his life 
was no longer one of studious leisure or youthful en- 
joyment; but visited by many disastrous occurrences. 

1478. The conspiracy of the Pazzi was directed against his 
life and that of his brother. Giuliano was its vic- 
tim ; while he with difficulty escaped from the poniard 
of the assassin. He was scarcely free from these do- 
mestic dangers, when he encountered greater foreign 
ones, from the implacable enmity of Sixtus VI. This 
pope leagued almost all Italy against Florence, de- 
claring at the same time that Lorenzo was the object 
of their attack ; and that if he were sacrificed, Florence 
should obtain peace. Lorenzo maintained the weight of 

1479. this coalition with firmness and dignity. With heroic 


gallantry he took the whole responsibility on his own 
person, and threw himself into the hands of the king 
of Naples. His firmness and talents enabled him to ^ 
induce this monarch to conclude a treaty beneficial and 1480. 
honourable to Florence, and his authority in the re- 
public was thus confirmed greater than ever. From 
this time he occupied himself by establishing an en- 
during peace] in Italy ; not pursuing his object by 
pusillanimous concessions, but by an unremitted at- 
tention to the course of events, and sound policy in 
preserving the balance of power among the Italian 

From the anxieties and cares attendant on his public 
life, he was glad to find relaxation in the cultivation of 
poetry and the pursuits of philosophy. He loved liter- 
ature and the fine arts, and devoted much of his time 
and fortune to their cultivation. He encouraged Greek 
learning, and was an enthusiastic Platonist. His chief 
friends were literary men Politian, Marsiglio Ficino, J 
and the three brothers of the name of Pulci. He busied 
himself in raising and giving reputation to the univer- 
sity of Pisa. He instituted a yearly celebration of the 
anniversary of Plato's birth and death, and was the 
cause that his refined philosophy became the fashion in 
Italy. All the learned wrote and spoke Plato ; and in 
Florence in particular, classic learning was an indis- 
pensable qualification in a well-educated man. 

One of the chief merits of Lorenzo is derived from ^ 
the revival of his nativelanguage. '"A century had elapsed 
since the golden age of Petrarch and Boccaccio, but the 
Italian language, instead of redeeming the promise of 
its birth, had remained mute and inglorious. The ne- 
glect which so speedily darkened the native literature, 
may be attributed to these very men, and especially to 
Petrarch, who cast disgrace over what he called the 
vulgar tongue, and taught that Latin was the only 
worthy medium by which learned men should commu- 
nicate their ideas and such Latin! However, the spirit 
of improvement, which is the most valuable attribute of 


human nature, led the students who succeeded him to 
cultivate and understand the implement he placed in 
their hands. They applied themselves to a critical ex- 
amination of Latin ; and after all, it is perhaps, to the 
bald, unformed Latinity of Petrarch, that we owe the 
knowledge which the scholar of the present day pos- 
sesses of the construction and delicacies of that lan- 
guage. If he had not taught the world, that the object 
chiefly worthy of their ambition was to imitate the 
works of Virgil and Cicero, no one had spent the labour 
necessary to the entire understanding of the language of 
the Romans. 

Yet, while this advantage was derived from his 
mistake, imagination and genius were silenced ; little 
prose and no poetry, either in Latin or the vulgar 
tongue, appeared in Italy. The writers educated by 
Cosmo, Politian, and Ficino, still adhered to the here- 
ditary error, and wrote in Latin. Lorenzo first broke 
through these rules, and expressed in his native lan- 
guage the fragile and delicate ideas inspired by a poetic 
imagination. He ranks high as a poet : he does not 
possess the sublimity and grace of Dante, nor the ele- 
gance, tenderness, and incomparable sweetness of Pe- 
trarch ; but his merits are original and conspicuous : 
simplicity and vivacity adorn his verses. His love 
poems are full of fire, and come from the heart ; his 
descriptions are delightful, from their truth, elegance, 
and flow of fancy throughout ; his diction is that of a 
genuine poet. 

It is singular, that although Lorenzo possessed the 
germ of real poetry in his mind, he began to work him- 
self up to writing verses in a manner that appears cold 
to our northern imaginations : he resolved to love, and 
resolved to write verses on her he loved ; yet, being a 
poet, and a man whose heart easily opened itself to the 
warmer affections, no doubt a great deal of real feeling 
accompanied his aspirations. He himself gives the 
account of all these circumstances in a commentary 
written on his first sonnets. 


His brother Guiliano had been deeply attached to a 
lovely girl named Simonetta, who died in the bloom of 
beauty : it is supposed, that he alludes to her when he 
describes the excitement caused by the public funeral 
of a beautiful young lady, whose admirers crowded 
round her open bier, and gazed, for the last time, on 
the pallid face of the object of their adoration, which 
was exposed uncovered to their view, accompanying the 
funeral with their tears. All the eloquence and talent 
of Florence were exerted to pay honour to her memory 
in prose and verse. Lorenzo himself composed a few 
sonnets, and to give them greater effect, he tried to 
imagine that he also was a lover, mourning over the 
untimely end of one beloved, and then again he reflected 
that he might write still more feelingly, if he could dis- 
cover a living object, to whom to address his homage. 
He looked round among the beauties of Florence, to dis- 
cover one whose perfections should satisfy his judgment, 
as worthy of inspiring a sincere and constant attach- 
ment. At last, at a public festival, he beheld a girl so 
lovely and attractive in her appearance, that, as he gazed 
on her, he said to himself, te If this person were pos- 
sessed of the delicacy, the understanding, and accom- 
plishments of her who is lately dead, most certainly she 
excels her in personal charms." On becoming acquainted 
with her, he found his fondest dreams realised : she was 
perfectly beautiful, clever, vivacious, yet full of dignity 
and sweetness. It is a pity that this account rather 
chills us as we read his sonnets, and we feel them rather 
as coming from the head than heart : yet they are 
tender and graceful ; and it is not difficult for a youth 
of an ardent disposition, and an Italian, to love a beau- 
tiful girl, even at the word of command. 

One of these sonnets possesses the simplicity and 
grace which distinguish Lorenzo's poetry : we give 
Mr. Roscoe's translation of it, and yet are not satisfied. 
Mr. Roscoe wrote at a time when the common-places 
of versification, brought in by the imitators of Pope, 
were still in vogue ; but this observation applies chiefly 


to the beginning of the sonnet; the conclusion is better, 
yet the whole wants the brightness and spring of the 
original. Happy are those who can refer to that.* 

" Seek he who will in grandeur to be blest, 

Place in proud halls, and splendid courts, his joy ; 
For pleasure or for gold his arts employ, 

Whilst all his hours unnumber'd cares molest. 

A little field in native flowrets drest, 
A rivulet in soft numbers gliding by, 
A bird, whose love-sick note salutes the sky, 

With sweeter magic lull my cares to rest. 

And shadowy woods, and rocks, and towering hills, 
And caves obscure, and nature's freeborn train, 
And some lone nymph that timorous speeds along, 

Each in my mind some gentle thought instils 
Of those bright eyes that absence shrouds in vain ; 
Ah, gentle thoughts ! soon lost the city cares among." 

Many sonnets and canzoni were written to celebrate 
this lady's perfections and his passion, but he never 
mentions her name. From contemporary poets, Politian 
and Verini, who addressed her, and Valori, who wrote a 
life of Lorenzo, we learn, that her name was Lucretia, 
of the noble family of Donati; an ancestor of whom, 
Cuzio Donato, had been celebrated for his military en- 
terprises. But it is mutual love that excites our sym- 
pathy, and there is no token that Lucretia regarded her 
lover with more fervour than he deserved; for, however 
Verini may undertake to prove that he was worthy of 
a return for his attachment, a different opinion must be 
formed, when we find that he married a short time 
after, not the sighed for Lucretia, but Clarice degli 
Orsini ; and although the usual excuse is given, that 
this marriage was consented to by him to please his 
relatives, and as he expresses it, " I took for a wife, or 

* " Cerchi chi vuol, le pompe, e gli alti honori, 

Le piazze, e tempii, e gli edeficii magni, 

Le delizie, il tezor, qual accompagni 
Mille duri pensier, mille dolori : 
Un verde praticel pien di bei fiori, 

Un rivolo, che 1* erba intorno bagni, 

Un angeletto che d' amor si lagni, 
Acqueta molto meglio i nostri ardori : 
L' ombrore selve, i sassi, e gli alti monti 

Gli antri oscuri, e le fere fuggitive, 

Qualche leggiadra ninfa paurosa ; 
Quivi veggo io con pensier vaghi e pronti 

Le belle luci, come fossin vivi. 

Qui me le toglie or' una, or' altra cosa." 


rather was given me ; " yet as Lucretia must have been 
the victim of his obedience, it is agreeable to find that 
she gave slight ear to his empty or deceptive protest- 

His other poems were composed as recreation during 
a busy life, and many of them are animated by glowing 
sensibility or light-hearted hilarity. Among them the 
most celebrated is " La Nencia da Barbarino/' where he 
makes a swain praise his mistress in rustic phrase ; 
this is a dangerous experiment, but Lorenzo perfectly 
succeeded. His poem is totally devoid of affectation, 
and is so charming for its earnestness and simplicity, 
that it was repeated and sung by every one in Florence. 
Many tried to imitate the style, but vainly; and they 
complained that, though many peasant girls were cele- 
brated, La Nencia da Barbarino was the only rustic 
beauty who could gain the popular favour. 

His Canzoni Carnaleschi are animated and original ; 
he was the inventor of this style of song. He exerted 
himself, on all occasions, to vary and refine the public 
amusements of Florence, and during the carnival, the 
period of gaiety and pleasure in Catholic countries, in- 
troduced processions and dances of a novel and delightful 
description. It was the custom of the women to form 
themselves into bands of twelve, and, linked hand with 
hand, to sing as they danced in a circle. Lorenzo com- 
posed several canzoni a hallo, which became favourites 
for these occasions. One of these, 

" Ven venga Maggio 
E 'I Gonfalon selvaggio," &c. 

" Welcome, May, 
And the rustic banner," &c. 

is the prettiest and most spirited song for May ever 
written. His processions and masquerades afforded also 
subjects for verse. Bands of people paraded the city 
in character, personating triumphs, or exhibitions of the 
arts ; and Lorenzo wrote songs, which they chanted 
as they passed along. It is singular, that, free and 
energetic as the Florentines were, yet the songs com- 


posed for them never spoke of liberty, but turned upon 
love only : love was all their theme love that was 
often licentiousness, and yet described with such truth 
and beauty, as must have tended greatly to enervate, 
and even to vitiate, the various persons that formed 
these gay companies. Lorenzo's canzoni are tainted with 
this defect. 

Lorenzo was a faithful and kind, though not a 
fond husband. His feelings were always held in dis- 
cipline by him ; and if he were too sensitive to the in- 
fluence of beauty, yet his actions were all regulated by 
that excellent sense of justice and duty which is his 
admirable characteristic. There are some elegiac stanzas 
preserved of his, which prove that he suffered at one 
time the struggles and errors of passion, and was sub- 
dued by it to other thoughts than those which his reason 
approved. How different is this poem to those ad- 
dressed to Lucretia Donati. There is no Platonic re- 
finement, no subtlety, no conceit, no imitation of Pe- 
trarch ; its diction is clear and sweet; truth and strength 
of feeling animate each expression ; it bears the stamp 
of heartfelt sincerity, and is adorned by all the delicacy 
which real passion inspires. ' ' Ah ! " he exclaims, " had 
we been joined in marriage ! Had you been earlier 
born, or had I come later into the world \" These 
stanzas are even left unfinished, and probably were 
concealed, as revealing a secret which it would have 
been fatal to have discovered to the world. 

Besides the animated and gay songs, and choruses, 
in which Lorenzo is unrivalled, he wrote several de- 
scriptive poerns : one long one relates the history of how 
his favourite country house, named Ambra, was carried 
away by the overflowing of the Ombrone. He figures 
the villa to be a nymph, of whom the river god is 
enamoured, and, like one of Ovid's heroines, she falls 
a victim to his pursuit. The descriptions in this poem 
are lively, true, and graceful. The " Caccia di Fal- 
cone" gives a spirited detail of the disasters that befall 
falconers : he bring in several of his friends by name. 


fc Where is Luigi Pulci/' he cries, " that we do not 
hear him ? He is gone before in that grove, for some 
whim has seized him, and he has retreated to meditate 
a sonnet." 

Lorenzo died at the early age of forty-four, of 
painful and inexplicable disorder, which, attacking his 8 - 
stomach, gave rise to the idea that he was poisoned, 14 
He was considerate and affectionate to the last ; en- 
deavouring to impress his system of policy on his son's 
mind, and exerting himself to lighten the grief of those 
around him. Potents and wonders followed his 'death, 
which even Machiavelli, then a very young man, 
deemed miraculous. He was universally lamented ; and 
the downfall of his family, which occurred soon after, 
through the misconduct of his eldest son, Piero, renewed 
the grief of the friends who survived him. 


THE literary tastes of Cosmo, the talents and admir- 
able qualities of Lucretia, the mother of Lorenzo, and 
the example and protection of Lorenzo himself, rendered 
his a golden era for poets and philosophers. It has 
been already mentioned, that for the sake of spreading 
abroad a knowledge of the Platonic doctrines, Cosmo 
had caused the son of his favourite physician to be 
educated in the study and cultivation of them. Marsiglio 
Ficino was born at Florence, on the 18th of October, 
1433. His first studies were directed by Luca Quar- 
qualio, with whom he read Cicero, and other Latin 
authors ; applying his attention principally to the men- 
tion made of Plato, and already admiring and loving 
his philosophy. His father, being poor, sent him to study 
at Bologna, to the discontent of Marsiglio; but for- 
tunately, one day, during a casual visit to Florence, his 
father led him to Cosmo de' Medici, who, struck with 
the intelligence exhibited in his countenance, chose him 
at once, young as he was, to be the future support of 


his Platonic academy ; and, turning to the father, said, 
' f( You were sent us by heaven to cure the body, but 
your son is certainly destined to cure the mind." * He 
adopted him in his house ; and Marsiglio never ceased 
to testify his gratitude, and to declare that he had been 
to him a second father. He was given up henceforth to 
Platonism. At the age of twenty-three he wrote his 
" Platonic Institutions." Plato was his idol ; he talked 
Plato, thought Plato, and became almost mad for Plato, 
and his deepest and most wonderful mysteries. The 
celebrated Pico della Mirandola shared his studies and en- 
thusiasm. It was not, however, till after having written 
his ' ( Institutions," that, at the advice of Cosmo, he learnt 
Greek, the better to understand his favourite author. 
He translated, as the first fruits of this study, the 
" Hymns of Orpheus" into Latin ; he translated, also, 
the " Treatise on the Origin of the World/' attributed 
to Hermes Trismegistus ; and, presenting it to Cosimo, 
he was rewarded by him by the gift of apodere, or small 
farm, appertaining to his own villa of Caneggi near 
Florence, and a house in the city, besides some mag- 
1468. nificent manuscripts of Plato and Plotinus. After this 
^ tat ' Ficino occupied himself by translating the whole of 
Plato's works into Latin, which he completed in five 
years. He afterwards assumed the clerical profession, 
1475. and Lorenzo bestowed on him the cure of two churches, 
J?Etat> and made him canon of the cathedral of Florence, on 
"" which he gave up his patrimony to his brothers. He was 
a disinterested and blameless man : gentle and agreeable 
in his manners, no violent passions nor desires disturbed 
the calm of his mind. He loved solitude, and delighted 
to pass his time in the country, in the society of his 
philosophic friends. His health was feeble, and he was 
subject to severe indispositions, which could not induce 
him .to diminish the ardour with which he pursued his 
studies. Sixtus IV., and Mathew Corvino, king of Hun- 
gary, tried to induce him, by magnificent offers, to take up 



his abode at their several courts, hut he would not quit 
Florence. Many foreigners, particularly from Germany, 
visited Italy for the express purpose of seeing him, and 
studying under him. He died on the first of October, 
1499* at the age of sixty-six. In the year 1521, a 
marble statue was erected in Florence to his memory. 


As the name of Pico della Mirandola has been men- 
tioned, it is impossible not to bestow some attention on 
a man who was the glory and admiration of Italy. Gio- 
vanni Pico della Mirandola, Conte della Concordia, was 
born in the year 1 463 ; his father, Gian Francesco Pico, 
was lord of Mirandola and Concordia ; his mother's 
name was Julia Boiarda. From his earliest years he 
manifested an extraordinary understanding and me- 
mory : he was naturally disposed to literary and poetic 
pursuits ; but at the age of fourteen, being destined, as a 
younger son, for the church, he was sent to Bologna 
to study canon law. After two years spent in this 
way, he resolved to give himself up to philosophy, 
and visited the most celebrated schools of France and 
Italy, in which, studying under and disputing with the 
professors of highest reputation, he acquired an eru- 
dition that made him the wonder and delight of his 
contemporaries. To Greek and Latin he added a know- 
ledge of Hebrew, Chaldaic, ancl Arabic. He relates 
how he was enticed by an impostor to purchase, at a 
high price, seventy Hebrew manuscripts, which he was 
told were genuine, and composed by order of Esdras, 
and contained the most recondite mysteries of religion. 
These were the books of the Cabala, or of the Tra- 
ditions, which the Jews believe to have been collected 
at the command of Esdras. At the age of twenty-three 
Pico visited Rome, during the reign of Innocent VIII. ; 
and here he published- f)00 propositions dialectic, 
moral, physical, mathematical, theological, &c. c. 

VOL. I. M 


offering to dispute with any one concerning them. These 
propositions still exist among his works, a sorrowful 
monument of the pedantry of the age, which could turn 
aside so admirable an understanding, from loftier and 
more useful studies, to the suhtilties and frivolities of 
scholastic arguments. But, in those days, they caused 
Pico to be considered something wonderful, and almost 
divine. Yet they led him into annoyance, as envy caused 
other learned men to denounce thirteen among the propo- 
sitions to be heretical, and he wrote a long apology to clear 
himself. This rather increased his difficulties ; twice he 
was cited before the papal tribunal, but was each time 
pronounced innocent. This persecution caused him to 
reform his life. Handsome, young, rich, and of at- 
tractive manners, he had hitherto enjoyed the pleasures 
usual to his period of life ; but henceforth he gave 
himself up to piety, burning his love verses, and de- 
voting himself to theology and philosophy. He spent 
the last years of his life at Florence, in the society of 
Lorenzo and his friends. He was beside Lorenzo at 
his last moments ; and, in a cheerful conversation with 
him, that amiable man spent his last hours, saying, that 
he should meet death with more satisfaction after this 
interview. Pico has been praised by every writer for 
his beneficence and generosity; he died in the year 
1494, in his thirty-second year only. 


POLITIAN formed a third, and was the dearest of Lo- 
renzo's friends. He was born at Monte Pulciano, a 
small town not far from Florence ; he was named An- 
gelo, and his father was called Benedetto di Cini. The 
son' adopted the place of his birth for a surname, 
changing Pulciano into the more euphonic appellation 
of Poliziano. He was born on the 24-th of July, 14-54 : 
his father was poor, which occasioned him in his youth 
to call himself Angelo Basso. Brought to Florence 


during his childhood, he studied under the most cele- 
brated scholars of the day, Cristofero Landino, and 
Giovanni Agyropylo. It is uncertain whether he de- 
^rived this advantage from his father's care, or from the 
kindness of Lorenzo de' Medici, as it is not known at 
what age he first became known to that munificent 
patron. His own words are, " From boyhood almost 
I was brought up in that asylum of virtue, the palace .' 
of the great Lorenzo de' Medici, prince of his flourish- 
ing republic of Florence." * These words coincide with 
the general idea, that at a very early age he attracted 
the notice of Lorenzo by his poem entitled, c< Gicstra 
di Giuliano de' Medici," written to celebrate the first 
tournament of Giuliano, as Luca Pulci had composed an- 
other in honour of that of Lorenzo. This poem consists 
of 1400 lines, and yet is left unfinished; breaking 
off at the moment that the tournament is about to be- 
gin. It commences by an address to Lorenzo, and then 
goes on to describe the youthful occupations of Giuliano, 
his carelessness of female beauty, and the subduing of his 
heart by the lovely Simonetta. A description of Venus 
and the island of Cyprus is introduced : it concludes 
abruptly, as is often the case with youthful attempts. . 
Yet the beauty and variety of the ideas, and smoothness 
and elegance of the versification, render it doubtful to 
critics whether it was written at so early an age as 
fourteen. At least it must cause regret that he after- 
wards applied himself to compositions in Latin : for 
though his poetry in that language has a life and vigour 
which distinguishes it from any other of his age, yet it 
must always fall'short of the genuine flow of thought, 
in which a poet so easily indulges when he adopts his 
native tongue. 

From the period that he took up his abode in Lorenzo's 
palace, he received the instructions of the most celebrated 
men of the age, and his progress showed his aptitude to 
learn. He enjoyed here also the society of Lorenzo's 

M 2 


accomplished mother, Lucretia Tornabuoni, a lover of 
poetry, and herself a poetess. Lorenzo afterwards ap- 
pointed him tutor to his children ; hut he did not agree 
so well with Mona Clarice. When Lorenzo was en- 
gaged in the hazardous war that disturbed the begin- 
ning of his political life, he sent his wife and children 
to Pistoia, with Politian as tutor, who wrote frequent 
letters to Lorenzo, with accounts of the well-being and 

J occupations of his family. tf Piero," he writes, " never 
leaves my side, nor I his. I should like to be useful 
to you in greater things ; but since this is entrusted to 
me, I willingly undertake it." " All your family are 
well. Piero studies moderately ; and we wander 
through the town to amuse ourselves. We visit the 
gardens, of which this city is full, and sometimes the 
library of Maestro Zambino, where I have found several 
good Greek and Latin books. Giovanni * rides on his 
pony all day long, followed by numbers of people. 
Mona Clarice is well in health ; but takes pleasure in 
nothing but the good news she receives from you, and 
seldom quits the house." In another letter he asks, 
that more power may be given to .him over the studies 

J of the boys : "As for Giovanni, his mother employs 
him in reading the Psalter, which I by no means com- 
mend. Whilst she declined interfering with him, it is 
wonderful how he got on." Monna Clarice was not 
better pleased with the tutor than he with her. She 
writes to her husband "I wish you would not make 
me the fable of Francho, as I was of Luigi Pulci ; and 
that Messer Angelo should not say that he remains in 
my house in spite of me. I told you, that if you 
wished it, I was satisfied that he should stay, though 
I have suffered a thousand impertinences from him. If 
it is your will, I am patient ; but I cannot believe that 
it should be so." Thus situated, Politian lamented the 
absence of Madonna Lucretia from Pistoia, and com- 
plained to her of the solitude he endured there. " I 
call it solitude," he says, in a letter written at this 

Afterwards Leo X. 


time to Lucretia, " for Monsignore shuts himself up in 
his room, with thought for his only companion ; and I 
always find him so sorrowful and anxious, that it in- 
creases my melancholy to he with him : and when I 
remain alone, weary of study, I am agitated hy the 
thoughts of pestilence and war, regret for the past and 
fear for the future ; nor have I any one with whom to 
share my reveries. I do not find my dear Mona Lu- 
cretia in her room, to whom I could pour forth my com- 
plaints, and I die of ennui." * 

At the age of twenty-nine, he was appointed to the 
professorship of Greek and Latin eloquence in the uni- 
versity of Florence. Happy in the friendship of his 
patron, his life was disturbed only by literary squabbles, 
in which he usually conducted himself with forbearance 
and dignity. He was held in high repute throughout 
Italy, and received preferment in the church, and on 
one occasion was sent ambassador to the papal court. 

His life for many years was one of singular good for- 
tune and happiness : adversity ensued on the death of 1492. 
Lorenzo. There is a long letter of his to Jacopo And- ^Etat. 
quario t, which describes the last days of his beloved 38< 
patron in affecting and lively terms. He speaks of the 
counsels he gave his son, and his interview with his 
confessor, during which he prepared himself for death 
with astonishing calmness and fortitude. On one oc- 
casion he made some enquiry of the servants, which 
Politian answered, <f Recognising my voice," he writes, * 
" and looking kindly on me, as he ever did, ' O Angelo/ 
said he, ' are you there ? ' and stretching out his lan- 
guid arms, clasped tightly both my hands. I could not 
repress my sobs and tears, yet, trying to conceal them, I 
turned my face away ; while he, without being at all 
agitated, still held my hands : but when he found that 
I could not speak for weeping, by degrees and naturally 
he set me free, and I hurried into the near cabinet, and 
gave vent to my grief and tears." 

* Roscoe's Life of Lorenzo de' Medici, Appendix, p. 60. 
t Tiraboschi. 

H 3 


The disasters that befel the Medici family after the 
death of Lorenzo, are supposed to have broken Poli- 
tian's heart. The presumption and incapacity of Piero 
caused him and all who bore his name to be exiled. 
The French troops at that time invaded Italy under 
Charles VIII. : they entered Florence,, and, in con- 
junction with the ungrateful citizens, plundered and 
destroyed the palace of the Medici ; and the famous 
Laurentian library was dispersed and carried off in 
the tumult. Politian had conjposed a pathetic Latin 
monody on Lorenzo.* 

" Who from perennial-streams shall bring, 
Of gushing floods a ceaseless spring ? 
That through the day in hopeless woe, 
That through the night my tears may flow. 
As the reft turtle mourns his mate, 
As sings the swan his coming fate, 
As the sad nightingale complains, 
I pour my anguish and my strains. 
Oh ! wretched, wretched past relief; 
O grief! beyond all other grief! " 

* We subjoin the whole of the original. The above verses are from the 
translation of Mr. Roscoe : 

" Quis dabit capiti meo 
Aquam ? quis oculis meis 
Fontem lachrymarum dabit? 
Ut nocte fleam, 
Ut luce fleam. 
Sic turtur viduus solet, 
Sic cygnus moriens solet ; 
Sic luscinia conqueri. 
Heu, miser, miser! 
O, dolor, dolor! 

" Laurus impetu fulminis 
Ilia, ilia jacet subito ; 
Laurus omnium Celebris, 
Musarum choris, 
Nympharum choris, 

Sub cujus patula coma, 
Et Phrebi lyra blandius 
Et vox dulcius insonat. 
Nunc muta omnia ! 
Nunc surda omnia ! 

c Quis dabit capiti meo 
Aquam ? quis oculis meis 
Fontem lachrymarum dabit ? 
Ut nocte fleam, 
Ut luce fleam. 
Sic turtur viduus solet, 
Sic cygnus moriens solet, 
Sic luscinia conqueri. 
Heu, miser, miser I ^ 
O, dolor, dolor ! " 


While singing these verses, after Lorenzo's death, 
afflicted at the sad loss they commemorated,, and by the 
adverse events which followed, a spasm of grief seized 
him,, his heart suddenly broke from excess of feel- 
ing, and he died on the spot. He died on the 24th of 
September, 1494, having just completed his 40th 
year, and having survived his illustrious friend little 
more than two years. 


MORE celebrated as an Italian poet than Politian, is 
Luigi Pulci, author of " Morgante Maggiore." Very 
little is known of his private history. There were three 
brothers of this family, which is one of the most ancient 
in Florence, since it carried back its origin to one of the 
French families who settled in that city in the time of 
Charlemagne : their fortunes, however, were decayed. 
Bernardo, the elder, wrote an elegy on Cosimo de' 
Medici ; and another very sweet and graceful sonnet on. 
the death of Simonetta, whom Giuliano de' Medici 
loved. He translated the Eclogues of Virgil into Ita- 
lian, and wrote other pastoral poetry. 


LUCA PULCI wrote the "Giostra di Lorenzo," before men- 
tioned ; various poetic epistles, and two longer poems ; 
one called the " Driadeo d' Amore," a pastoral founded 
on mythological fables ; and the other, the " Ciriffo Cal- 
vaneo," a romantic narrative poem, deficient in that 
interest and poetic excellence necessary to attract readers 
in the present day. 


LUIGI PULCI is the most celebrated of the brothers. 
It was at the instigation of Lucrezia Tornabuoni, 
M 4 


mother of Lorenzo de' Medici,, who has been before 
mentioned for her talents and love of literature, that he 
wrote the " Morgante Maggiore ; " and Bernardo Tasso, 
father of the great poet, relates that he read the cantos, 
as they were written, at the table of Lorenzo.* No- 
thing is known of the latter part of Luigi Pulci's 
life. Alessandro Zilioli, in his inedited " Memoirs of 
Italian Poets," cited by Apostolo Zeno, narrates that 
Pulci died in a state of penury at Padua, and that, from 
the impiety of his writings, he was denied the rites of 
Christian burial ; but he is the only writer who mentions 
this, and no great faith can be reposed in him. 

The poem of " Morgante Maggiore " has excited 
much discussion, as to whether it is intended to be con- 
sidered a burlesque or serious poem. There is little of 
what is absolutely tragic ; but much that is romantic 
and interesting, mingled, as in the tragedies of Shak- 
speare, with comedy. It is true that Pulci, while he 
relates wonders, does so in a language so colloquial, as 
to detract from the dignity of his heroes and the ma- 
jesty of the adventures recounted ; but in this he rather 
imitates than travesties real life, and especially the life of 
the chivalrous ages, during which there was so strange a 
mixture of the grand and the ridiculous. While read- 
ing the poem, it seems difficult to understand the 
foundation of the dispute, of whether it be impious, 
and whether it be burlesque: it is at once evident 
that the serious parts are intended to be elevated and 
tragic. Dr. Panizzi's essay is clear and decisive on this 
point ; and with him we may quote Ugo Foscolo, who 
says, that " the comic humour of the Italian narrative 
poems arises from the contrast between the constant 
endeavours of the writers to adhere to the forms and 
subjects of the popular story-tellers, and the efforts 
made,, at the same time, by the genius of those writers, 
to render these materials interesting and sublime." 
Yet, doubtless, Pulci, as well as other writers of romantic 

* Tiraboschi. 


narrative poems, introduces comedy, or, rather, farce, 
designedly. Tasso alone, in his " Gerusalemme," ad- 
hered to classic forms, and preserved the elevation of 
epic majesty, unmingled with wit and ridicule. 

The origin of the romantic tales of Charlemagne 
and his Paladins, made so popular by Ariosto, and 
celebrated by Pulci, Boiardo, and other poets, has been 
much treated of. Earlier than these were " The Ad- 
ventures of the Knights of the Round Table of King 
Arthur." French authors have asserted that these also 
are founded on stories of Charlemagne ; but Dr. Panizzi 
asserts them to be of Welsh origin : he quotes Marie de 
France, who declares that she translated several fabliaux 
from British originals; and Chaucer, who, in the "Frank- 
lin's Tale," says 

" These olde gentil Bretons in hir dayes 
Of diverse adventures maden layes, 
Rimeyed in hir firste Breton tongue; 
"Which layes with hir instruments they songe, 
Or elles redden him for hir pleasure." 

The long narrative romances of Amadis of Gaul and 
Palmerin of England (which the curate saved out 
of the general burning of Don Quixote's library) are 
supposed to be founded on various old lays and tales 
put together in regular narration. In the same way, 
the adventures of the French knights may be supposed 
to be founded on songs and romances composed to cele- 
brate favourite heroes. The authority perpetually quoted 
by them all is archbishop Turpjn. This romance is 
supposed to have been written during the time of the 
first crusade : pope Calistus II. quotes it in a bull dated 
1122, and pronounces it to be genuine. From this, as 
from one source, the Italians drew, or pretended to draw, 
the various adventures of their heroes. In all their poems 
these are the same, and their peculiar characters are pre- 
served; yet many of these personages are not even 
mentioned by Turpin : the events of his book are the 
wars of Charlemagne in Spain against the Saracens, and 
the defeat of the Paladins at Roncesvalles, through the 
treachery of Gaiio. 


Milone, a distant relative of Charlemagne, and Bertha, 

J the'ljhrperor's sister, were the parents of Orlando. His 
cKfldhood was spent in obscurity and hardships, owing 
to the banishment of Milone and his wife when their 
marriage was discovered. He was clothed by the charity 
of four young friends, who brought cloth to cover him : 
two bought white, and two red ; whence Orlando adopted 
his coat of arms, del quartiere. Charlemagne saw him 

1 on his road to Rome, Orlando introducing himself to 
his imperial uncle's notice by stealing a plate of meat 
for his mother. On this he was recognised ; castles and 
lands were bestowed on him, he became the prop of 
the throne, and married Alda, or Aldabella, who was 
also connected with the royal familly. 

The personage who ranks next to him in celebrity is 

*f his cousin Rinaldq of Montalbano. Montalbano, or 
Montauban, is a city on the banks of the Tarn, near its 
junction with the Garonne. It is said to have been 
built in 1144, after the date of archbishop Turpin's book, 
who makes no mention of it or its lord. It is a strong- 
hold ; and, even now, an old fortress, in the most ancient 

. part of it, is called le Chateau de Renaud. Aymon, 
duke of Dordona, had four sons ; the eldest was Rinaldo, 

J who, having, in a transport of rage, killed Charlemagne's 
nephew Berthelot with a blow of a chess-board, was, 
with all his family, except his father, banished and 
outlawed. They betook themselves to the forests and 
the lives of banditti ; and, proceeding to Gasgony, Yon, 
king of Bordeaux, gave his sister Clarice in marriage to 
Rinaldo, and permitted him to build the castle of Mon- 
tauban. After several disasters, he went to the Holy 

' Land, and, on his return, made peace with the emperor. 
The machinery of these poems is chiefly conducted, in 
the first place, by the treachery of Ganp of Mayence, 
who is perpetually trusted by Charlemagne, and per- 
petually betrays him, turning his malice principally 
against the cefebrated warriors of his court, while 
they are protected by Rinaldo'* cousin Malagigi, or 
Maugis, son of Beuves, or Buovo, of Aygremont. 


Malagigi was brought up by the fairy Orianda, and 
became a great enchanter. To vary the serious cha- 
racters of the drama, Astolfo, the English cousin of 
Orlando, being equally descended with him from Charles 
Martel, is introduced. Astolfo is a boaster : he is per- 
petually undertaking great feats, which he is unable to 
perform ; but he is generous, and brave to foolhardiness, 
courteous, gay, and singularly handsome. 

The family of the heroes of romance has been the 
more dilated upon, as it serves as an introduction to all 
the poems. But to return to Pulci, who is immediately 
before us. 

His poem wants the elevation, the elegance, and 
idealism of Boiardo and Ariosto ; but it is not on that 
account merely burlesque : it has been supposed to be 
impious, on account of each chapter being addressed to 
the Divinity, or, more frequently, to the Virgin. But 
in those days men were on a much more familiar footing 
than now with the objects of their worship ; and, even 
at present, in purely catholic countries, in Italy, 
for example, the most sacred names are alluded to 
in a way which sounds like blasphemy to our ears, 
but which makes an integral part of their religion. 
There is but one passage in the "Morgante," hereafter to 
be noticed, which really savours of unbelief. Thus, as 
seriously, or, at least, with as little feeling of blas- 
phemy, as an alderman says grace before a turtle feast, 
Pulci begins his poem * : 

. _ "In the beginning was the Word next God ; 

God was the Word, the Word no less was he : 
This was in the beginning, to my mode 

Of thinking, and without him nought could be. 
Therefore, just Lord! from out thy high abode, 

Benign and pious, bid an angel flee, 
One only, to be my companion, who 
Shall help my famous, worthy, old song through. 

* " In principio era il Verbo appresso a Dio : 
Ed era Iddio il Verbo, e '1 Verbo lui : 
Questo era nel principio, al parer mio; 
K nulla si pub far sanza costui : 
Per<\ giusto Signor benigno e pio, 
Mandnmi folo un de gli angcli tui, 
Che m' accompagni, e rechimi a niemoria 
Una faraosa antica e degna storia. 


" And thou, O Virgin ! daughter, mother, bride 

Of the same Lord, who gave to you each key 
Of heaven and hell, and every thing beside, 

The day thy Gabriel said, ' All hail! ' to thee ; 
Since to thy servants pity 's ne'er denied, 

With flowing rhymes, a pleasant style and free ; 
Be to my verses then benignly kind, 
And to the end illuminate my mind." 

LORD BYRON'S Translation of Canto I. of Pulci. 

The scope of the poem is then, in true epic fashion, 
summed up in a few lines * : 

" Twelve paladins had Charles in court, of whom 
The wisest and most famous was Orlando j 

Him traitor Gan conducted to the tomb 
In Roncesvalles, as the villain plann'd too, 

While the horn rang so loud, and knell'd the doom 
Of their sad rout, though he did all knight can do ; 

And Dante in his comedy has given 

To him a happy seat with Charles in heaven." Id. ibid. 

The poet then introduces the immediate object of the 
poem. On Christmas day Charlemagne held his court, 
and the emperor was over-glad to see all his noble Pala- 
dins around him. His favour shown towards Orlando 
excited the spleen of Gano, who openly attacked him as 
too presumptuous and powerful. Orlando overhearing 
his words, and perceiving Charlemagne's ready credu- 
lity, drew his sword in a rage, and would have killed 
the slanderer, had not Ulivieri interposed. On this 
Orlando quits Paris, full of grief and rage, and goes 
forth to wander over the world in search of adventures. 
His first enterprise is undertaken in behalf of a convent, 
besieged by three giants, who amused themselves by 

" E tu Vergine, figlia, e mad re, e sposa 
Di quel Sigrior, che ti dette le chiave 
Del cielo e dell' abisso e d' ogni cosa, 
Quel di che Gabriel tuo ti disse Ave ! 
Perchfe tu se' de' tuo' servi pietosa, 
Con dolce rime, e stil grato e soave, 
Ajuta i versi miei benignamente, 
E'nfino al fine allumina la mente." 

Morgante Mag. canto i. 

* " Dodici paladini aveva in corte 

Carlo ; e'l piu. savio e famoso era Orlando : 

Gan traditor lo condusse a la morte 

In Roncisvalle un trattato ordinando ; 

La dove il corno sono tanto forte 

Dopo la dolorosa rotta, quando 

Ne la sua commedia Dante qui dice, 

E mettelo con Carlo in ciel felice." Id. ibid. 


throwing fragments of rock and trees torn up by the 
roots, into the courts and garden of the monastery, which 
kept the poor monks in perpetual alarm. Notwithstand- 
ing their dissuasions, Orlando conceives this to be an 
adventure worthy of him : he goes out against the pagan 
and monstrous assailants. He kills two in single combat, 
and then goes to seek the fiercest and mightiest of the 
three, Morgante. This ferocious giant has retired, 
meanwhile, to a cavern of his own fashioning, and was 
dreaming uneasily of a serpent who came to slay him, 
which was only defeated by his having recourse to the 
name of the Christian Saviour. This disposed him to 
submission and conversion, and Orlando, delighted with 
these good dispositions, embraces and baptizes him. 
The monks are very grateful for their deliverance, and 
desirous to keep their preserver ; but Orlando, tired of 
idleness, takes a kind and affectionate leave of the 
abbot, whom he discovers to be a cousin of his own, 
and departs with his convert in search of adventures. 

Meanwhile, Rinaldo, enraged at his cousin's depar- 
ture, and the partiality displayed by the emperor for the 
traitor Gano, leaves the court with Ulivieri and Du- 
done in search of the wanderer. They meet with a va- 
riety of adventures, and join him at last in the court of 
king Caradoro, whom they aid in his war with king 
Manfredonio, who demanded, at the sword's point, the 
beautiful Meridiana, daughter of Caradoro, as his wife. 
Manfredonio is defeated. The verses that describe his 
final departure, at the persuasion of Meridiana, and the 
force of love which caused him to submit to her decree 
of banishment, forms one of the prettiest episodes of the 
Morgante. Meridiana falls in love with Ulivieri, who 
had delivered her: he converts her to Christianity; 
but this does not prevent him from following the ex- 
ample of the pious JEneas, and deserting her a short 
time after. 

Gano was not content with the dispersion and exile 
of tne Paladins : he sent messengers to Caradoro and 
Manfredonio, telling who the wanderers were, and inci- 


ting these monarchs to destroy them. Besides this, he 
invited Erminione, a Saracen king of Denmark, to 
attack France while unprotected by its bravest warriors. 
The king succeeds so well, that, besieging Paris, he 
took prisoner all the remaining Paladins; and poor 
Charlemagne, who cuts a sorry figure throughout the 
Morgante, sighs for the return of Orlando and Rinaldo. 
Gano triumphed, and offered one of the enemy's gene- 
rals to deliver up Montalbano to him by treachery ; 
Lionfante nobly refuses, and feels inclined to put the 
traitor to death ; he is saved by the intercession of the 
family of Chiararaonte, who feared that if things were 
pushed to an extremity with him, his followers would 
revolt, and endanger the empire. 

Orlando and his friends hearing in the course of 
their wanderings of the danger of Charlemagne, re- 
turned with a large army to deliver him. Gano wants 
to persuade the emperor that these allies are enemies 
in disguise; but the strength and valour of the most 
renowned Paladins are not to be mistaken. The magic 
arts of Malagigi the enchanter persuade Lionfante of 
the truth of the Christian religion : he is converted, 
and the war comes to an end, to the great discontent 
of the indefatigable Gano, who instantly begins to stir 
up another, informing Caradoro of the seduction of 
Meridiana, who sends a giant ambassador to complain 
to Charlemagne. The ambassador behaves with extreme 
impertinence, and is killed by Morgante. 

Rinaldo, who is rather quarrelsome, has a dispute with 
Ulivieri, on which, at the instigation of Gano, he is 
banished ; and he and Astolfo become bandits. As- 
tolfo is taken by treachery, and sentenced to be hanged. 
Poor fellow ! Astolfo, who is always good-humoured 
and courageous, is a kind of scape-goat, for ever in 
humiliating and dangerous situations. He is now worse 
off than ever ; but while ascending the gallows, and 
while the halter is fitting, a tumult is made to save him, 
and Charlemagne, overpowered, to preserve his life and 
kingdom, pardons him and Rinaldo, and banishes Gano. 


But this was only done to gain time. The emperor 
hates the race of Chiaramonte in his heart ; and Ric- 
x ciardetto, the youngest brother of the house, being taken 
prisoner while Rinaldo is absent, Charlemagne resolves 
to hang him. The Paladins were highly indignant, and 
Orlando left the court ; but Ricciardetto was saved by 
his brother Rinaldo, who drove the emperor from his 
throne, and forcing him to take refuge in one of Gano's 
castles, took possession of the sovereignty himself; till, 
hearing that Orlando was imprisoned and sentenced to 
die by a pagan king of Persia, he restores^ the emperor 
to his throne, causes Gano to be banished, and sets out 
to deliver his cousin, accompanied by Ulivieri and Ric- 
ciardetto. He succeeds in his attempt by means o* 
An tea, the daughter of the king of Babylon, who falls 
in love with him. It is impossible to follow all the in- 
tricacies of the adventures and the wars that ensue, 
the interest of which is derived from the detail and ex- 
pression, both lost in a brief abstract. Antea, while 
she continues to be devotedly attached to Rinaldo, is, 
on some treacherous suggestion of Gano, induced to 
enter France, and takes possession of the castle of 
Montalbano. Rinaldo is sent by her father against the 
old man of the mountain, whom he takes prisoner and 
converts to Christianity : and Orlando, who is engaged 
in fighting and conquering whole armies, hurries to 
deliver Ricciardetto and Ulivieri, who are going to be 
hanged by Antea's father. 

Morgan te had been left behind in France, but sets 
out to rejoin Orlando, and in his way to Babylon falls 
in with Margutte. Margutte is a singular invention, a 
caprice of the poet. Pulci resolved to paint a fellow 
without conscience, religion, humanity, or Care for 
aught but the grossest indulgences of the senses. Lord 
Byron has imitated a part of his confession of faith in 
one of his poems : 

" I know not," quoth the fellow, "who or what 

He is, nor whence he came, and little care; 
But this I know, that this roast capon 's fat, 
And that good wine ne'er wash'd down better fare." 

Don Juan, canto iii. v. 4 


(e My name is Margutte/' says this strange being ; 
(f I was desirous of becoming a giant, but half way I 
repented, so that I am only ten feet high. I neither 
believe in black nor blue, but in capon, whether it be 
boiled or roast, and I have faith sometimes in butter 
and other good things ; but above all, I put my trust in 
good wine. I believe in tarts and tartlets the one 
is the mother, the other is the son ;" and he con- 
tinues in a style of blasphemy more shocking to our 
protestant ears than those of the most pious catholics, 
who, as has been mentioned, are apt to allude in very 
familiar terms to the mysterious and almighty Beings, 
whom they do not the less on this account adore, and 
propitiate with prayer. 

Margutte's adventures are conducted with a kind 
of straightforward wickedness which amuses from its 
very excess : at an inn, after eating up all that is to be 
got, his appetite is enormous, and robbing the host, 
he sets fire to the house, and departs with Morgan te, 
rejoicing greatly in his success, and carrying off every 
thing he could lay his hands upon. They go travel- 
ling on, and meet with various adventures. Morgante 
is infinitely amused by his companion, but preserves a 
gentleness, a generosity, and kindness of heart, which 
contrasts agreeably with the other's unmeasured sen- 
suality. At last, one morning, Morgante, to play him 
a trick, draws off Margutte's boots while he is asleep, 
and hides them ; Margutte looks for them, and at 
length perceives an ape, who is putting them on and 
drawing them off; the sight of the animal thus engaged 
so tickles Margutte's fancy, that he laughs till he bursts. 
Morgante weeps over him, and buries him in a grotto. 
The whole episode of Margutte is distinct from the 
rest of the work. Pulci allows that it is not to be found 
in any of the old songs. Dr. Panizzi supposes, that under 
the name of Margutte is concealed some individual well 
known to Pulci and his friends, but at variance with 
them; and therefore made an object of sarcasm and 

We must hurry on to the conclusion of this poem, 


for the incidents are so multiplied and various, that 
it would occupy many pages to give an account of them. 
Poor Morgante dies the gentle Christian giant, the de- 
fender of ladies, and fast friend of Orlando. He is on 
board a vessel which is wrecked, and he is saved on the 
back of a whale, but on landing is bitten by a crab on 
the heel : he ridicules the wound ; but it proves fatal, and 
poor Morgante dies. Gano, a traitor to the end, is sent 
to Saragossa to treat with Marsiglio, who having been 
lately defeated, is to pay tribute to Charlemagne. He 
there schemes the destruction of Orlando, who, is to 
come slenderly accompanied to Roncesvalles to receive 
the tribute. The traitor arranges with the king that 
he shall advance accompanied by 600,000 men ; who, 
divided into three armies, shall successively attack the 
Paladin and his few troops. One of the best passages 
of Pulci is the scene in which the treacherous attack of 
Roncesvalles is determined on between Marsiglio and 
Gano. After a solemn dinner they walked into the park, 
and sat down by a fountain in a solitary place. With 
the hesitation and confusion of traitors they are dis- 
cussing the mode of destroying the famous Paladin, 
when heaven gives signs of anger by various and terri- 
fying prodigies. Marsiglio's seat is upset ; a laurel 
near is struck by a thunderbolt ; the sun is obscured ; 
a violent storm and earthquake fill them with alarm ; 
then a fire breaks out above their heads, and the waters 
of the fountain overflowing are turned to burning blood ; 
while the animals of the park attack each other. Gano 
is struck by the fall of a large fruit from a carob tree, (the 
tree on which Judas Iscariot is said to have hanged him- 
self) ; his hair stands on end, and terror possesses hisheart; 
but revenge is too burning within him to be quenched 
by fear, and the plot is proceeded in notwithstand- 
ing these frightful events. Orlando comes to Roncesvalles 
with a small force, rather a retinue than an army, to re- 
receive thegifts and submission of Marsiglio. The king is 
not neglectful of his part ; his innumerable armies, one 
after the other, attack Orlando. The Paladin and his 
VOL. i. N 


friends perform prodigies of valour ; but,, like waves of 
the sea, their enemies come on irresistible from their 
number. Orlando sees all die around him, and his soul is 
pierced with grief; yet not till he feels himself dying will 
he sound the mighty horn which is to give Charlemagne 
notice of his peril. Theemperor hears the faint echo borne 
on the winds three distinct times, and he and all around 
him feel certain that treason is at work and Orlando in 
danger. They turn pale with terror, and hasten to 
the sad spot, where they find the noble warrior dead. 
Rinaldo is near him. Rinaldo, at the moment that the 
slaughter of Roncesvalles was preparing, was far away in 
Asia. Malagigi his cousin puts a devil named Astoroth 
into a horse, which is to bring him to his cousin's aid in 
a few hours. This journey of Rinaldo and the evil 
spirit forms a curious episode. They converse together 
on their way concerning things divine and infernal. 
On coming to this passage, the reader is struck by the 
lofty tone the poet assumes : there is a mingled disdain, 
dignity, and regret in the fallen angel, that moves at 
once compassion and respect : he is thus described* : 

" This was a demon fell, named Astorot ; ^ 

No airy sprite, nor wanton fairy he ; 
His home was down in the infernal grot, 
And he was wise and fierce prodigiously." 

It has been supposed that Pulci did not write this 
portion of the poem. Panizzi does not hesitate to give 
credit to the assertion of Tassof, who declares that it 
was written by Ficino. But Tasso affirms this merely 
upon hearsay, which is slender authority. There is 
nothing to which contemporaries are more prone than 
to discover that an author does not write his own works. 
There is nothing in the style of these stanzas unlike 
Pulci's best and more serious verses. Rinaldo's journey, 

* " Uno spirto chiamato e Astarotte, 
Molto savio, terribil, molto fero, 
Questo si sta giu neP infernal grotte ; 
Non fe spirito foletto. egli e piu nero." 

Morg. Mag. xxv. 1J9. 

f Panizzi, Romantic Poetry of the Italians, p. 216. 


thus accelerated, was however to no purpose in saving his 
cousin; he could only assist in his revenge and the 
poem concludes with the hanging of Gano and Marsiglio, 
archbishop Turpin kindly undertaking to perform the 
last office for the king with his own hand, and ties 
him up to the famous carob tree. 

The great beauty of the Morgante, besides scenes 
and passages of pathos and beauty, is derived from the 
simple, magnanimous, and tender character of Orlando. 
Charlemagne is a doting old man, Gano a traitor, Rinaldo 
a violent and headstrong warrior orrobber, Astolfo vain- 
glorious, but all are selfish and erring, except the single- 
minded and generous conte di Brava. He is the model of 
a true knight, compassionate, sincere, and valiant : his 
death is courageous and pious : he thinks of the grief 
of the emperor, and the mourning of his wife Aldabella, 
and after recommending them to God, he embraces 
his famous sword Durlindana, and pressing it to his 
heart, and comforted by an angel from God, he fixes 
his eyes on heaven and expires. 


THE " Morgante Maggiore" is the first of a series of 
romantic narrative poems, which take Charlemagne and 
his Paladins for the heroes of their tales. The " Mam- 
briano" of Cieco da Ferrara is one of these. The real 
name of the author was Francesco Bello. It has been 
said that he was called Cecco or Cieco from his blind- 
ness but Cecco and Cecchino is the common Tuscan 
diminutive for Francesco. Little is known of this 
author, except the disaster that has already been men- 
tioned, and that he was poor and lived at Ferrara, and 
recited the cantos of his poem, as they were written, 
at the table of the cardinal Ippolito da Este. Tirabos- 
chi quotes from the dedication of Conosciuti, who pub- 
lished the " Mambriano" after the author's death ; who 1509. 
therein begs the cardinal to take the poem under his care, 
N 2 


and with his accustomed benevolence not to deny that 
favour to the memory of Francesco, which he so frequently 
and liberally bestowed during his life. Tiraboschi adds, 
that such expressions do not seem to him to accord 
with the idea that the poet lived and died poor. The 
bounty of a patron is, however, various and capricious, 
and, unless it takes the form of an annuity, seldom re- 
lieves the wants of a dependant; and we may take Frances- 
co's word that he was poor when he says " The howling 
of winds and roaring of waves which I hear now abroad 
upon our sea, has so shattered the planks of my skiff, 
that I lament that I undertook the voyage. On the 
other side, penury burthens me with such need, that it 
seems to me, that I can never acquire any praise if I 
do not overcome these winds and storms."* His poem is 
little read, and has never been translated. We have never 
met with it ; but from the specimens given by Panizzi, 
it is evident that he possessed ease of versification, and 
a considerable spring of poetic imagery and invention. 


VERY little is also known of this poet, whose real 
name was Domenico. He is supposed to have been born 
in Florence : he became free of the company of barbers 
in that city in 1432, and exercised his trade in the 
Contrada di Calemala. He died at Rome in 1448. His 
poems are a strange and capricious mixture of sayings, 
proverbs, and jokes, most of which are unintelligible to 
the Italians of the present day. From them and his 
name is derived the word burlesque, to signify a mock 
tragic style of expression. 

* " II fremitode' venti e'l suon del 1 ' onde 

Ch' io sento aiiesso in questo nostro mare, 
Han cosi indebolite ambo le sponde 
Del legno mio, ch' ioploro il navigate ; 
Dall' altro canto poverta m' infonde 
Tanta neCessita, che' 1 non mi pare 
Di poter mai acquistar laude alcuna, 
S' io non supero i venti e la fortuna." 

Jdamb. xxviii. 1. as quoted by Dr. Panixzi. 



MATTED MARIA BOJARDO was of an ancient and noble 
family. His ancestors had been counts of Rubiera, a 
castle between Reggio and Modena, till, in 1433, Fel- 
trino Bojardo, then the head of the family, exchanged it 
for Scandiano, a small castle about seven miles from 
Reggio, at the foot of the Apennines, and celebrated for 
its excellent wine. The sovereign house of Este added to 
the possessions of the family, and Bojardo was count 
of Scandiano, and lord of Aceto, Casalgrande, Gesso, 
La Toricella, c. 

It appears that the poet was born in the castle of 
Scandiano, about the year 1434, or a little before. His 
father was Giovanni, son of Feltrino ; and his mother, 
Lucia, was sprung of a branch of the famous Strozzi 
family, original in Florence. Two of his near relatives, 
on the mother's side, were elegant Latin poets. The 
general outline merely of Bojardo's life is known there, J 
and such delicate tints as we may catch from his lyrical 
poetry. He received a liberal education, and was con- 
versant in the Greek and Latin languages. He was 
a vassal of the Este family, and lived at the court 
of Borso the first duke of Ferrara, and afterwards of 
his successor Ercole, to whom, indeed, he attached him- 
self during the life of Borso, when it was very uncertain 
whether he would succeed to the duchy. The services 
he performed for this family are nearly the sole events 
we collect of his life. When the emperor Frederic III. 
visited Italy, Bojardo was one of the noblemen sent 
out to meet and welcome him on his way to Ferrara, 1459. 
where he was entertained with extraordinary magnifi- JEtat, 
cence. Borso at this time was only marquis of Ferrara 35. 
(though duke of Modena and Reggio), but the pope, 1471. 
Paul II., soon after created him duke of that city, and JEtat. 
Bojardo accompanied him to Rome, when he went thither 37> 
to receive the investiture. 

N 3 


1472. Soon after, the poet married Taddea, daughter of the 
./Etat. count of Novellara, of the noble house of Gonzaga. He 

38> continued to enjoy the kindness and friendship of duke 

1473. Ercole, who selected him with other nobles to escort to 
. F errara his bride Eleonora, daughter of the king of 

Naples. He was named by him also governor of Reggio; 
which place he enjoyed, except during the short interval 
when he was governor 01 Modena, till the period of his 
death, which occurred at Reggio on the 20th of De- 
JEtat. cem ^ er ^ 1494, at the age of sixty. He was buried in 
47. the church of Scandiano. Some traces remain to mark 
j 48 g his character. He was so mild a governor as to excite 
JEtat. tne indignation of a learned civilian, Panciroli, who, 

52. speaking of him as a magistrate, reproves him as a man 
J487. f to great benignity, "better fitted to write verses 
yEtat. than punish crimes." A contemporary Latin poet says, 

53. " that he was not severe to the errors of love, but 
kindly gave to others what he desired himself. He sat, 
indeed, on the seat of justice, and gave forth laws with 
a grave brow ; but his countenance was not always 
severe ; day and night he sang the triumphs of love, 
and while others studied the laws, he applied himself 
to tender poetry." 

His lyrical poetry is extremely beautiful, tender, and 
spirited, being characterised by that easy flow of thought 
and style peculiar to him. Since the days of Petrarch, 
it is the fashion to affix one lady's name as the object 
of a poet's verses. But, unfortunately, men, whether 
poets or not, are apt to change. There are traces of 
Bojardo's being attached to at least two ladies : and he 
married a third. The most passionate of his verses 
were written from Rome in 1471, and were addressed 
to Antonia Caprara, a beautiful girl of eighteen, who, 
whether married or not, shared his affection. Perhaps 
this lady died ; but we do not appear to have any verses 
to his wife, whom he married in 1472. 

He was a good classical scholar, and translated the 
" Golden Ass" of Apuleius, the history of Herodotus, 
Halicarnassus, and the " Golden Ass" of Lucian. He 


translated, altered, and enlarged the Pomariura of Rico- 
baldi, to which, in its new form, he gave the name of the 
" Imperial History." It is a sort of chronicle, full of ro- 
mantic stories, founded on history and tradition, to which, 
perhaps, credence was lent at that time. He wrote also a 
drama called Timon, founded upon Lucian, which was 
among the first specimens of Italian dramas, but it does 
not appear to have great merit. He was the author also 
of Latin eclogues, the language of which is elegant and 

His great worlc, however, is the "Orlando Innamorato," J 
or " Loves of Orlando," founded on the old romances. 
His disposition naturally inclined him to revel in ro- 
mance, so that it is said that he used, at Scandiano, to 
visit the old villagers, and draw from them their tra- 
ditionary tales, rewarding them so well for the gratifi- 
cation he received, that it became a sort of proverb or 
exclamation of good-will at that place "God send 
Bojardo to your house ! " His " Imperial History," 
probably gave direction to his invention, which was 
prolific. He took Orlando as his hero ; but deeming 
him uninteresting unless in love, he called into life 
the beautiful Angelica, whose coquetry, loveliness, and 
misfortunes, made sad havoc in Charlemagne's court. 
Mr. George Rose's prose translation of the l( Orlando 
Innamorato" gives a spirited abstract of the story, which 
must here be more briefly detailed. 

Charlemagne, in the midst of prosperity and glory, 
held a court at Paris, at which 22 ? 030 guests were as- 
sembled. Before these the beautiful Angelica presents ^ 
herself, with her brother Argalia, and four giants as 
attendants. Her brother defies the knights to combat. 
Argalia possessed an enchanted lance, which throws 
whoever it touches ; and Ajigelica a ring, which, on 
certain occasions, renders the wearer invisible. Every 
one fell in love with Angelica, and in particular Or- 
lando and Rinaldo. Angelica becomes frightened in J 
the midst of the disturbances of the combats, and dis- 
appearing by means of the ring, flies from the scene of 
N 4 


the tournament. She takes refuge in the wood of Ar- 
dennes : arriving fatigued and heated, she drinks has- 
tily of an enchanted fountain, which causes her to fall 
in love with the first man she may chance to see ; and 
then reposing on the flower-enamelled turf, falls asleep. 
Orlando and Rinaldo pursue her, as does also her bro- 
ther Argalia ; and Ferrau goes after him, being at the 
moment of his flight engaged in combat with him. 
Orlando and Rinaldo arrive at Ardennes ; but the latter, 
on entering the forest, and refreshing himself at a foun- 
tain, drinks of water enchanted by Merlin, which causes 
him to hate the first woman he shall behold : he then 
also lies down, and goes to sleep. Angelica wakes ; she 
rises, wanders from her place of rest, and comes to the 
spot where Rinaldo is reposing. Her love-blinded eyes 
behold him, and, transported by sudden and subduing 
passion, she watches his waking with fondness. He opens 
his eyes, and holds in abhorrence the beauty who is 
gazing upon him, and flies from her in disdain. Arga- 
lia meanwhile arrives in the wood, pursued by Ferrau ; 
he has lost his enchanted lance ; the enemies meet, and 
continue the combat. Argalia is slain : while breathing 
his last, he implores his enemy to cast him and his 
armour into the river, that no trace may remain of his 
disgrace. Ferrau agrees, but solicits the loan of his 
helmet, he himself being without one, till he can get 
another : Argalia consents, and dies ; while Ferrau, 
who is a Saracen, hearing of the misfortunes of his 
sovereign Marsiglio, who is attacked by Gradasso, king 
of Sericana, gives up the pursuit of Angelica, and sets 
out for Spain. Angelica returns to India, and Orlando 
departs in quest of her. 

Charlemagne goes to the assistance of Marsiglio 
against Gradasso, who himself is a wonder of martial 
prowess, and is attended by an innumerable army, and 
several vast and fierce giants. Rinaldo has returned 
to court, and accompanies his imperial master : during 
the battle that ensues, he encounters Gradasso ; but 
their single combat is interrupted by the hurry of the 


fight, and they agree to meet in duel the next day on 
foot, in a solitary place by the sea-side. Gradasso's 
great object is to win Orlando's sword Durindana, and 
Rinaldo's horse Bajardo : the latter is to be his prize, if 
he overcomes Rinaldo on the following day. 

Angelica meanwhile, burning with love for Rinaldo, 
revolves many schemes for bringing him to her side. 
She has in her power his cousin Malagigi (Maugis), 
who is a great enchanter. She set him at liberty, 
on condition that he shall bring Rinaldo to her. 
Malagigi first tries to persuade his cousin ; but the 
chilly waters have wrought too powerfully, and the very 
name of Angelica is odious to him. Malagigi has re- 
course to stratagem. When Rinaldo keeps his ap- 
pointment the next morning with Gradasso, he finds 
the sea-shore solitary: a little boat, tenantless, is anchored 
near the beach. Malagigi sends a fiend, in the shape 
of Gradasso, who, after a mock combat, take refuge in 
the pinnace, followed by Rinaldo. The boat drifts out 
to sea, the fiend vanishes, and Rinaldo is hurried away 
across the ocean, till he arrives near a palace and garden, 
where the vessel lightly drifts on shore. 

Orlando wanders about to find Angelica, and hears that 
she is at Albracca, a castle of Catay. But he is unable 
to reach her, detained by a variety of adventures and 
enchantments, through which he is at last deprived 
of all memory or knowledge, and brought to a magni- 
ficent palace, where he is left. Charlemagne meanwhile 
is freed from Gradasso by means of Argalia's enchanted 
lance, which, falling into Astolfo's possession, he works 
miracles, unhorses the mighty king, and a peace being 
agreed upon, he sets out in search of Orlando and Ri- 
naldo. Poor Rinaldo is tempted meanwhile to soften 
towards Angelica, but in vain. The luxuries of an 
enchanted palace are wasted on him, and he is exposed 
to the most frightful dangers, from which Angelica 
delivers him ; but still he scorns and leaves her, while 
she returns disconsolate to Albracca. 

Her hand is sought by various princes and nobles ; 


and in particular by Agricane, king of Tartary : she 
refuses them all ; and Agricane, resolved to win her, 
besieges her in Albracca. She is defended by various of 
the Paladins, and goes herself with her ring in quest of 
Orlando,, whom she restores to his senses. He gladly 
hastens to her assistance ; he kills Agricane in a single 
contest, and in reward, as she wishes to get rid of him, 
Angelica sends him on a distant and perilous expedition. 

The poem then enters on a new series of adventures, 
arising from the revenge which Agramante wishes to 
take on Orlando for having slain his father, king Tro- 
jano, sixteen years before. We are now introduced to 
several new heroes of romance, destined to play a dis- 
tinguished part in the poem of Ariosto, as well as in the 
present one. There is Ruggeri, whose name is adopted 
from the Norman knight Ruggeri, who had been king 
of Sicily ; and there is Rodomonte, the bravest, fiercest, 
and wildest of all warriors. Ruggeri's presence is abso- 
lutely needed for the success of Agramante's expedition ; 
but he is imprisoned in a castle, whence he can only be 
delivered by Angelica's magic ring. A thievish dwarf, 
named Brunello, contrives to steal it from her, and 
Ruggeri is liberated. The expedition embarks for 
France, where Rodomonte, impatient of delays, had 
already arrived, and devastates Provence ; while Mar- 
siglio is induced, by the old traitor Gano, to invade 
France from the Pyrenees. 

Orlando, returning from his adventure, finds Angelica 
besieged by Marfisa, and in great peril. He mentions, 
that Rinaldo is in France : the name has not lost 
its influence. She resolves to abandon Albracca ; and, 
having lost her ring, is glad to be protected by Orlando, 
who conducts her in safety to France ; and who, during 
the long journey, never mentions his passion, nor 
annoys her with any manifestation of it ; though she, 
by her former coquetry, might well expect importunity: 
but his generous and fond heart renders hinl silent, that 
he may not disturb her lovely, serene countenance ; 

" Per non turbare quel bel viso sereno." 


Poor Angelica feels not less for Rinaldo ; but, arriving 
at Ardennes, she is delivered from her misery, by drink- 
ing of the fountain, that turns all her love to hate ; 
while Rinaldo, also arriving, drinks of the love-in- 
spiring waters, and with great joy seeing the lady, j 
wonders at his past dislike, and congratulates himself 
now on her passion. He addresses her with tenderness ; 
but is repulsed with scorn, while her champion Orlando > 
is at hand to defend her. He challenges his cousin, 
and they fight ; but Charlemagne, hearing of their ar- 
rival in his kingdom, seizes on the lady, and forces the J 
knights to be reconciled, privately promising to both 
Angelica as a prize, if they will exert themselves during 
the impending battle with Agramante. The poem now 
relates the invasion of Agramante, of Mandricardo, son 
of the slain Agricane, of Gradasso, and Marsiglio. A 
great battle takes place, in which the Saracens are 
triumphant, Orlando being absent. Rinaldo goes in 
pursuit of his horse Bajardo ; while his sister Brada- 
mante, a brave heroine, falls in love with Rugeri, and 
withdraws from the field. Charlemagne retires to Paris, 
and is besieged by the whole body of Saracens. The 
poem ends with the commencement of a sort of episode, 
in which Fiordespina, mistaking the sex of Brada- 
mante, falls in love with her. In the middle of this, the 
poet is interrupted. The sound of arms, which be- 
tokens the invasion of the French, and the terror and 
misery of Italy, call him from his task of fiction, to be 
the witness of real woes. He promises, if the stars will 
permit, to continue his narration another time. This 
time never came, for the French invaded Italy in 14-94 ; 
and it was in about the same year that Bojardo died. 

This is but a brief abstract of a poem interspersed 
with numerous episodes, beautiful descriptions, and in- 
teresting reverses. The poet never flags. An untired 
spirit animates every stanza, every verse : the life, the 
energy, the variety, the fertility of invention, are truly 
surprising, and far transcend Ariosto. But minuter 
criticism is deferred, till an account is given of Berni 
and his rifacimento. 



FRANCESCO BERNI was born at Lamporecchio, in the Val 
tli Nievole, towards the end of the fifteenth century. The 
first eighteen years of his life were spent at Florence ; 
whence he transferred himself to Rome, and entered on 
the service of his relation,, the cardinal Bibbiena. On the 
death of the cardinal, he attached himself to the nephew, 
Angelo Divizio Bibbiena. He was at one time obliged 
to leave Rome, on account of some adventure of gal- 
lantry *; and afterwards entered the service of Giberti, 
the papal Datario, with whom he remained seven years, 
accompanying him whenever Giberti's duties as a bishop 
took him to Verona. But Berni was a poet, and fond 
of pleasure, and fortune could not obtain from him 
the industry which might have advanced him with 
his patrons. His vivacity and his poetry were agree- 
able in society ; he became courted as a literary man ; 
and he was a distinguished member of the academy of 
the Vignaiuoli, or vine-dressers, composed of the first 
men in Rome. This learned association was established 
by a Mantuan gentleman, Oberto Strozzi. The mem- 
bers assumed names adopted from the vineyard ; and 
its feasts became famous all over Italy. Berni was at 
Rome when it was plundered by the Colonna party in 
1526, and was robbed of every thing: at the same time 
he was struck with horror at the cruelties committed by 
the invaders. He mentions them with horror in the 
" Orlando Innamorato." When describing the sacking 
of a town, he says, that his unhappy eyes saw similar 
outrages perpetrated in Rome. He quitted the service 
of the Datario after this, and retired to Florence, where 
he lived tranquilly, being possessed of a canonicate, which 
had before been given him in the cathedral of that city, 
and enjoying the protection of cardinal Ippolito de' 
Medici, and of the duke Alexander. There is a story 

* PanizzL 

BERNI. 189 

of his being solicited by each of these princes to poison 
the other, which is not supported by dates or facts. 
Alexander was afterwards murdered by Lorenzino de* 
Medici. The cardinal Ippolito had died before : Alex- 
ander was accused of having poisoned him ; but accu- 
sations of this sort were so frequent at that time, that, 
according to historians and the popular voice, no man 
of any eminence ever died a natural death. Berni is 
said to have died on the 26'th of July, 1536. 

Berni possessed, to an extraordinary degree, a liveli- 
ness of imagination, and a facetiousness, which caused 
him to invent a new style of poetry, light, witty, but 
highly fanciful, which became the delight of his con- 
temporaries. Mr. Stebbing speaks with great disappro- 
bation of him, saying, " that we shall not be guilty of 
much injustice, if we regard him as one of those eccle- 
siastical Epicureans of the sixteenth century, whose 
infidelity and licentiousness branded them with infamy." 
His minor poems are witty, but indecent : they appear 
to he written, says Tiraboschi, with ease and rapidity, 
yet the original manuscripts show that he blotted and 
corrected them with care. He wrote also Latin elegies; 
and came nearer to Catullus, the critics tell us, than any 
other poet of the age. 

The work by which he is known to us, is the Rifaci- 
mento of Bojardo's " Orlando Innamorato," which was 
not published till after his death. He occupied himself 
with this poem at Verona, while in the service of the 
Datario. He addresses the Po in one of the cantos of 
the poem, begging of it to restrain its rapid course 
while he writes beside its banks ; and yet at this very 
time his letters are full of complaints of the occupations 
that take up all his time. 

It is a curious subject to enquire, what the fault was 
in Bojardo's poem, that rendered it necessary that it 
should be rewritten. Berni was not the first to discover 
this, as Domenichi had already altered the style of every 
stanza; yet his rifacimento had not caused it to be popu- 
lar. Meanwhile Ariosto wrote a continuation to it, which 


he named the "Orlando Furioso," and that became the 
delight and glory of Italy. The choice of subject in these 
poets is admirable. When Milton thought of making 
king Arthur and his knights the heroes of a poem, he 
selected a subject which was devoid of any quick interest 
to his countrymen : wars with France and civil struggles 
had caused the British name to be forgotten. But thejMa- 
hometans were still the terror of Italy. After the taking 
of Constantinople, they pressed near upon the peninsula ; 
Venice was kept in check,, and at one time Ancona was 
actually taken by them. Every Italian heart felt triumph 
in the overthrow of a Pagan and Saracen, and warmed 
with interest when it was related how they were 
driven from France. Bojardo made choice of the subject, 
and he added life to it, by the introduction of Angelica. 
His invention, his poetic fervour, his ceaseless flow of 
fancy, were admirable ; yet he was forgotten. Many 
of Ariosto's episodes are more tedious y and they are less 
artificially introduced ; but Ariosto was a greater poet : 
his style is perfectly beautiful, and his higher flights 
entitle him to a very high rank among the writers of 
verse. Perhaps, in the whole range of narrative poetry, 
there is no passage to compete with the progress of Or- 
lando's madness. 

Berni evidently appreciated Ariosto's merits, and 
he saw in Bojardo's a groundwork that emulated 
them. His faults are doubtless greater than we can 
judge, since style alone occasioned his want of popu- 
larity : he has many Lombardisms ; and I heard a 
learned Tuscan say, that nothing to their refined ear 
was so intolerable as the pronunciation of the north. 
Style, however, was his only fault ; arid Berni, in altering 
that, brought at once to light the beauty of the poem : he 
changed no incident, no sentiment, scarcely a thought ; 
stanza by stanza he remodelled the expression, and this 
was all; yet it would almost seem that he thus commu- 
nicated a Promethean spark. Nothing can be more false 
than the accusation, that he added any thing licentious 
to the poem. Tiraboschi even gives credit to this idea ; 

BEBNI. 191 

but, on the contrary, his expressions are always more 
reserved than those of the original. The comparison 
may easily be made, by collating, in the two authors, 
the passages which describe the meeting of Bradamante 
and Fiordelisa, the welcome given by Angelica to Or- 
lando when he arrives at Albracca, and the journey of 
these two from Albracca to Provence ; and the above 
assertion will at once be proved ; nor is it true that 
Berni turned a serious poem into a burlesque. He added 
lightness and gaiety, but seldom any ridicule. It is now 
easy, since Dr. Panizzi's edition of the original poem, 
to compare it with the rifacimento : an Italian alone 
can be a competent judge; but it is easy for any one to 
see the difference between the earnest language of Bo- 
jardo, and the graceful wit of his improver. We will 
give, as a specimen of the usual style of his alterations, 
two stanzas, selected by chance in the poem : they de- 
scribe the death of Agricane. Bojardo writes thus, 
speaking of Orlando, when his adversary, having received 
a mortal wound, asks him to baptize him * : 

" He had his face covered with tears, and he dis- 
mounted on the ground : he took the wounded king in 
his arms, and placed him on the marble of the fountain : 
he was never weary of weeping with him, entreating for 
pardon with a gentle voice. Then he baptized him 
with water from the fountain, praying God for him 
with joined hands. He remained but a short time, 

* " Egli avea pien di lagrime la faccia, 
i'u smontato in su la terra piana ; 
Kicolse il Re ferito ne lebraccia, 
I '. sopra M marino il pose a la font an a, 
di pianger con seco non si saccia, 
Chiedendogli pcrdon con voce umana. 
Poi battezzollo a 1' acqua de la fonte, 
Pregando Dio per lui con le man gionte. 

" Poco poi stette, die 1' ebbe trovato 
Freddo il viso e tutta la persona ; 
Onde s'avvide ch' egli era passato. 
Sopra al marmor al fonte 1' abbnndona, 
Cosl com' era tutto quanto anna to, 
Col lira ml i in mano, c con la sua corona; 
E poi verso il destrier fece riguardo, 
E pargli di veder che sia Bajardo." 

Orlando Inn. da Bojardo, lib, i. can. six. stan. 16, 17 


finding his face and whole ^person cold, whence he 
perceived that he was no more. He leaves him on the 
marhle of the fountain, all armed as he was, with his 
sword in his hand, and his crown, and then he turned 
towards the horse, and thought that he recognised 

Thus alters Berni * : 

" Having his face covered with tears, the count dis- 
mounts from Brigliadoro : he took the wounded king in 
his arms, and placed him on the brink of the fountain, 
entreating, while he kisses and embraces him, that all 
past injuries might be forgotten. Not able to say 
yes, the king inclines his head, and Orlando baptized 
him with water ; and, at last, he found his face and 
whole person cold, whence he judged that he was no 
more ; wherefore he left him on the verge of the foun- 
tain, all armed as he was, with sword in hand, and 
with his crown : then, turning his look upon his horse, 
it seemed to him that he recognised Bajardo." 

This, of course, is a very clumsy mode of showing 
the difference ; and yet it gives the mere English reader 
an idea of the extent of Berni' s alterations. 

But, although he did not materially change either 
event or thought, he added to the poem ; and the real 
merits of Berni became very evident in the introductory 
stanzas which he appended to each canto. It seems to 
me that these have never been sufficiently appreciated : 

" Plena avendo di lagrhne la faccia 
Scende di Brigliadoro in terra il Conte, 
Recasi il Re ferito nelle braccia 
E ponlo su la sponda della fonte ; 
E pregando, lo hacia, e stretto abbraccia, 
Che 1' ingiurie passate siano sconte, 
Non potendo dir si, china il Re il collo, 
E Orlando con 1' acqua battezzollo. 

" E poiche finalmente gli ha trovato 
11 viso freddo, e tutta la persona, 
Ondc il giudica tutto trapassato, 
Par sopra quella sponda 1' abbandona, 
Cos! com era tutto quanto armato, 
Col brando in mano, e con la sua corona : 
Poi verso il suo caval volto lo sguardo 
Gli par raffigurar, che sia Bajardo." 

Orlando Inn. rifatto da JSerni, ca. xix. stan. 19, 20 . 

BERNI. 193 

they are not jocose nor burlesque ; they are beautiful 
apostrophes, or observations upon the heart and fortunes 
of human beings, embodied in poetic language and 
imagery. Many of them are to be preferred to those of 
Ariosto, whom he imitated in these additions. We have 
noticed his address to the Po, which is singularly beau- 
tiful ; another well-known interpolation is the intro- 
duction of a description of himself: this, it is true, is 
burlesque; but the style of irony is exquisite, and, 
surely, may be allowed, as it is directed against his own 
faults and person. Mr. Rose has translated this passage, 
and published it in his prose abstract of the (e Inna- 
morato." Dr. Panizzi has quoted it also in his work. 
He gives an account of his life ; of his birth at Lam- 
porecchio ; of the " piteous plight" in which he so- 
journed at Florence till the age of nineteen ; and his 
journey to Rome, when he attached himself to his 
kinsman, the cardinal Bibbiena, " who neither did him 
harm nor good ;" and, on his death, how he passed to the 

" Who the same measure as his uncle meted ; " 

and then " in search of better bread," how he became 
secretary to the Datario. Yet, he could not please his 
new patron ; although 

" The worse he did, the more he had to do." 

Then he describes his own disposition and person : 

" His mood was choleric, and his tongue was vicious, 
But he was praised for singleness of heart, 
Nor taxed as avaricious or ambitious ; 
Affectionate and frank, and void of art; 
A lover of his friends and unsuspicious ; 
And where he hated knew no middle part : 
And men his malice and his love might rate; 
But then he was more prone to love than hate. 

" To paint his person, this was thin and dry ; 
Well sorting it, his legs were spare and lean ; 
Broad was his visage, and his nose was high, 
While narrow was the space that was between 
His eyebrows ; sharp and blue his hollow eye, 
Which, buried in his beard, had not been seen, 
But that the master kept this thicket cleared, 
At mortal war with moustache and with beard " 
VOL. J. O 


No one ever detested servitude as he did, though 
servitude was still his dole. He then whimsically de- 
scribes himself as inhabiting the palace of a fairy; 
where, according to Bajardo, people are kept happily 
and merrily, amusing themselves, and passing their lives 
in indolence. Berni supposes himself to be one of the 
company, together with a French cook, Maitre Pierre 
Buffet, who had been in the service of Giberti ; and he 
describes his beau-ideal of the indolent life he loved. 
Tired with noise, lights, and music, he finds a lonely 
room, and causes the servants to bring a bed into it, a 
large bed, in which he might stretch himself at 
pleasure ; and, rinding his friend the cook, another bed 
is brought into the same room for him, and between 
the two a table was placed : this table was well supplied 
with the most savoury viands : 

" But soup and syrup pleased the Florentine (Berni), 
Who loathed fatigue like death ; and for his part, 
Brought neither teeth nor fingers into play, 
But made two varlets feed him as he lay. 

" Here couchant, nothing but his head was spied, 
Sheeted and quilted to the very chin ; 
And needful food a serving man supplied 
Through pipe of silver placed the mouth within. 
Meanwhile the sluggard moved no part beside, 
Holding all motion else mere shame and sin : 
And (so his spirits and his health were broke), 
Not to fatigue this organ, seldom spoke." 

"The cook was Master Peter hight, and he 
Had tales at will to wile away the day ; 
To him the Florentine: 'Those fools, pardie, 
Have little wit, who dance that endless way.' 
And Peter in return : ' I think with thee.' 
Then with some merry story back'd the say, 
Swallowed a mouthful, and turned round in bed, 
And so, by starts, talked, turned, and slept, and fed." 
* * * * 

" Above all other curses, pen and ink 
Were by the Tuscan held in hate and scorn. 
Who, worse than any loathsome sight or stink, 

Detes'ted pen and paper, ink and horn. 

So deeply did a deadly venom sink, 

So fester'd in his flesh a rankling thorn, 

While, night and day, with heart and garments rent, 

Seven weary years the wretch in writing spent. 

Of all their ways to baffle time and tide, 
This seems the strangest of their waking dreams : 
Couched on their backs, the two the ratters eyed, 
And taxed their drowsy wits to count the beams. 

BERNI. 195 

'T is thus they mark at leisure which is wide,' 
Which short, or which of due proportion seems, 
And which worm-eaten are, and which are sound, 
And if the total sum is odd or round." 

This is a specimen of Berni's humour, which gave the 
name of Bernesco to poetry of this nature. More 
serious and more elegant verses abound, as we have 
already remarked, and prove that Berni deserves a very 
high place among Italian poets. 

o 2 



LUDOVICO ARIOSTO was born in the castle of Reggio, a 
city of Lombardy, on the 8th of September, 1474. 
Both his parents were of ancient and honourable lineage: 
the Ariosti had long been distinguished in Bologna,, when 
a daughter of their house, Lippa Ariosta, a lady of 
great beauty and address, being married toObizzo III., 
marquis of Este, brought a number of her relatives to 
Ferrara : these, by her influence, she so fortunately 
established in offices of power and emolument, that they 
flourished for several generations among the grandees of 
that petty but splendid principality. 

The poet's mother, Madonna Daria, belonged to a 
branch of the Malegucci, one of the wealthiest and no- 
blest families in the north of Italy. Nicolo Ariosto, 
his father, held various places of trust and authority 
under the dukes of Ferrara. In youth he had been the 
companion of Borso, and steward of the household of 
Hercules, besides being occasionally employed on em- 
bassies to the pope and the king of France ; in which 
he is said to have received more substantial recompence 
than barren dignities, in ample official salaries, and rich 
presents for special services. At the birth of the poet 
he was governor of the castle and territory of Reggio, 
and afterwards advanced to those of Modena ; but as 
emolument came easily, and there were abundant tempt- 
ations, besides heavy family expenses, to spend it la- 
vishly, wealth never accumulated in his hands: wherefore, 
having nine younger children born to him, his views 
with respect to the eldest, Ludovico, were prudently 
directed towards establishing him in some profession, 
whereby he might acquire riches and rank for himself 
by perseverance in honourable labour. At the age of 
fourteen or fifteen years, when he had already signal- 


ised himself by composing a drama on the story of 
Pyramus and Thisbe, which was performed by his little 
brothers and sisters, no doubt as happily as the same 
subject in the Midsummer Night's Dream (whenever 
that happened) was enacted by Bottom the weaver and 
his comrades, or, rather, as happily as Oberon, Titania, 
and their train could have done it in fairy-land, the 
young poet was sent, grievously against his will, to study 
civil law at Padua under two eminent practitioners, 
Angelo Castrinse and II Maino. With them, like Ovid, 
Petrarch, Tasso, Marino, or our own Milton and Cow- 
per, he spent five years to little profit, hating his pro- 
fession, and studying so listlessly, that it became more 
and more manifest, the longer he drawled at it, that he 
never would excel in the strife of words and tourna- 
ments of tongues, by which the ample fortunes and 
broad lands of many families, whose founders the gods 
had fortunately not made poetical, were then, as now, 
like the prizes at hardier exercises, acquired. Nicolo 
Ariosto, therefore, at length abandoned the folly of 
spoiling a good poet to make a bad lawyer, and per- 
mitted his son to return to those learned studies and 
exercises of native talent, which had been either sus- 
pended, or indulged in by stealth, after his parent, " with 
spears and lances," had driven him from them into the 
toils of pleadings and precedents. Released from these 
trammels, (strewed as they were to his loathing eye with 
the mangled remains of causes, like cobwebs with sculls, 
wings, and fragments of flies,) Ludovico, at the age of 
twenty, found himself free to expatiate in that fields of 
classic literature, whose buried treasures, in his age, 
continued still to be dug up and brought to light from 
time to time; or to roam abroad seeking adventures 
suited to his youthful imagination, in the wilds of French 
and Spanish romance, then recently thrown open to their 
countrymen by Pulci and Boiardo. 

However enriched his mind in earlier youth might 
have been with knowledge of the dead languages and 
we are required to believe that he had made a very 
o 3 


promising Latin oration while he was a mere boy 
he found, on returning to them., that he had lost so 
much as to need the help of a master to construe a fable 
of JEsop. But what he lost at law, he recovered at 
leisure, and added so much more to his stock, that he 
speedily became eminent among his contemporaries (at 
a time when Latin was more cultivated^ than Italian) 
for the critical skill, or, more probably, the quickness of 
apprehension and delicacy of taste, with which he ele- 
cidated obscure passages in Horace and Ovid. These 
appear to have been his favourite authors j and each of 
them, in the sequel, he not a little resembled, in their 
very dissimilar excellences. Under the tuition of Gre- 
gorio da Spoleti, a scholar of high repute, whom he has 
gratefully celebrated in the epistle to Bembo (Satire VI.), 
he so far perfected himself in the language of ancient 
Rome, that his verses in it were admired and com- 
mended by the greatest adepts in that factitious style of 
composition. It was the folly of the learned of that 
age and the preceding, to make Latin the universal lan- 
guage of writers who aimed at the honours of literature; 
a scheme so preposterous, that none but the learned 
could ever have stumbled upon it in their ignorance of 
every thing but what the relics of ancient books could 
teach them. To men of practical knowledge, it must 
have occurred, that all the fragments of Roman authors 
could, at the most, furnish a vocabulary comparatively 
small, and utterly inadequate to meet the demands of 
extending science, through new and ever-changing forms 
of society. Under such a servitude as made the Roman 
tongue itself pass under the Roman yoke, no phrase 
unauthorised by classic precedent could be hazarded, 
nor might a foreign word be engrafted upon the pure 
stock without appearing a barbarism. Meanwhile the 
very rhythm, accent, and pronunciation of the original 
being lost, scholars in every country were obliged to 
adapt these to the vernacular sounds of vowels and con- 
sonants among themselves ; so that an Oxonian and a 
Tuscan, though they might understand each other by 

ARIOSTO. ] 99 

the eye on paper, would be nearly unintelligible by the 
ear and the living voice. It is manifest that nothing J 
better than everlasting patchwork, of the same un- 
changeable materials, how diversely soever combined 
(like the patterns produced by the kaleidoscope, ever 
variable, yet little distinguishable from another), would 
have constituted the eloquence, poetry, and polite lite- 
rature of modern Europe. No people would have suf- J 
fered more than the Italians themselves, by employing 
a defunct and unimproveable tongue, in which their 
brightest geniuses must have been but secondary planets, 
dimly reflecting, through a hazy atmosphere, the bor- 
rowed beams of luminaries, themselves obscured by dis- 
tance, as well as imperfectly seen from partial eclipses. 
It would then have been the glory of Dante, Petrarch, 
and Ariosto, to have written what Virgil, Cicero, and 
Horace would have as little relished in diction as they 
could have comprehended in substance, where things, 
persons, customs, and arts, unexistent in their time, 
were the burthen of every original theme. On the other 
hand, equally simple, obvious, and beautiful, was the 
only living use that could be made of the dead lan- 
guages (beyond the profit and delight of studying them 
in their surviving models) ; namely, that which time 
has made of them by transmutation and transfusion into 
modern tongues of such terms as were congenial to the 
latter, or could be rendered so by being employed, first, 
in technical or peculiar, and afterwards in elegant and 
familiar senses, to obviate the necessity of inventing 
new and inexpressive words, as the occasion of science 
and taste required. The Italian, French, Spanish, and 
English languages have thus been enriched and adorned 
with classical interpolations, so gradually adopted, that 
they seemed to grow naturally out of their respective 
stocks, as the sphere of knowledge increased, and its 
details became more multiform. 

This golden age of Ariosto's life was shortened by 
the death of his father ; who left to his eldest son, with 
means exceedingly small, the responsibility of support- 
o 4 


ing his mother, and training up his nine brothers and 
sisters. In the sixth of his Satires, satires which are 
almost wholly personal and autobiographic, he says, 
that on this occasion he was obliged, at four and twenty 
years of age, to abandon Thalia, Euterpe, and all the 
nine Muses ; to turn from quiet studies to active duties, 
and exchange Homer for waste-books and ledgers, 
(squarci e vacchette). These trusts, the young, ambi- 
tious, fiery-minded poet faithfully and self-den yingly 
fulfilled ; and he who, under parental injunction, at 
the most docile period of life, would not submit to the 
profitable drudgery of the law, now, in the very flower 
and pride of his genius, with filial piety and fraternal 
affection, yielded to a domestic yoke, and became the 
father of his family. In this honourable character he 
so well husbanded his narrow patrimony, that he por- 
tioned off now one, then another sister, and provided 
education for his four brothers, who, as they grew up, 
entered into the service of sundry princes and nobles, 
as was the custom with the minor gentry in that half- 
feudal age. Gabriele cultivated literature,' and excelled 
in the composition of Latin verse ; but, making Statius 
his model, he was never worthy to compete, even in this 
respect, with his more illustrious brother. Galasso en- 
tered into the church, which was then the wealthy and 
lavish patroness of those, who, by their subserviency to 
her domination, or their able advocacy of it, sought the 
good things of the present life under the guise of having 
their affections fixed on higher, holier, and eternal 
things. Yet the latter could hardly be said to be used 
as a pretence for the purpose of deceiving; so lax, 
shameless, mercenary, and ambitious was the hierarchy 
of that age. Such profligacy, however, must not be laid 
to the charge of Galasso, of whom nothing bad is known. 
<l Galasso, in the city of Evander, is seeking a surplice 
to put over his night-gown," says Ludovico in his second 
Satire ; meaning, to obtain a bishop's robe and rochet 
to become a prelate or a canon. Alexander was of a 
more enterprising disposition ; and delighting in foreign 


travel, he attached himself to the train of the cardinal 
Hippolito d'Este, brother to Alfonso duke of Ferrara, 
whom he accompanied into Hungary ; and, according to 
his brother's description of that imperious patron's court, 
appears to have fretted away his hour upon a stage of 
artificial manners, dissipated pleasures, and emasculating 
duties. Carlo, of whom nothing particular is recorded, 
took up his abode in the kingdom of Naples, where he 
died. These particulars are gathered chiefly from the 
sixth Satire, with the additional intelligence, in the 
second, that, at the time of writing it, the author had to 
furnish a dowry to his fifth and last sister, then about to 
be married. Though this must have been twenty years 
after the death of their father, the mother was still 
living with him. The allusion to her in the context 
has often been quoted, but it is so simply and purely 
beautiful, that it cannot be quoted amiss here. Ex- 
cusing himself by many reasons for not going abroad ; 
and having mentioned, in the foregoing lines, the dis- 
persion of all the other members of the family from 
their common home, except himself and her ; he says, 

" L'eta di nostra madre mi percote 
Di pieta il core, che da tutti, a un tratto, 
Senza infamia lasciata esser non puote." 

" Our mother's years with pity pierce my heart, 
For, without infamy, she could not be 
By all of us, at once, forsaken." Satire II. 

But while Ariosto, from his twenty-fourth to his 
forty. fifth year, was thus humbly, yet honourably, 
nourishing his mother and training up his brothers and 
sisters though his studies were much interrupted at 
first, and he was obliged to abandon the Greek language 
altogether (which he had recently been recovering) he 
maintained his reputation among the first Latin scholars ; 
and in the same busy interval achieved his greatest 
triumph in the literature of his own land. Under the 
voluntary burthen of domestic cares, the buoyancy of 
irrepressible genius bore him up from obscurity ; and 
whatever might have been the secret misgivings, or the 


generous forecastings, of undeveloped but conscious 
powers, he found himself, at nine and twenty years of 
age, in the first circles of Italian society, courted, ad- 
mired, applauded, and of course envied, both for his 
conversation, his learning, and his poetry. In the 
latter, indeed (judging by what remains), he seems to 
have produced nothing but two or three indifferent 
dramas, certain loose love elegies, with a few middling 
sonnets and madrigals, all fantastic and pleasant enough 
in their way, but the best of them affording no great 
promise that their writer would ere long surpass all 
predecessors in one wide field of invention, and leave to 
successors nothing to do in it but not to imitate him : 
so , late and slowly, often, are the most extraordinary 
talents brought into exercise. It is difficult to imagine, 
in our cold clime, with our refractory tongue, and ac- 
customed as we are to the phlegm of our countrymen, 
how such performances as the above could raise a man 
to celebrity : but verse was not then the pastime of 
every lover of verse ; and reputations were not so nume- 
rous as they are in these days, when there are a thou- 
sand avenues to the temple of fame not then opened, 
and quite as many out of it, while candidates are 
seen crowding in such throngs as to tread on one an- 
other's heels, those behind forcing onward those in 
front ; so that our literary ephemera resemble a pro- 
cession of spectators through a palace, when a royal 
corpse lies in state ; multitudes coming in, passing on, 
going out continually, a few pausing, none stopping. 
The Italian language, however, it must be observed, 
for all the minor and more exquisite forms of verse, is 
not less felicitously and inimitably adapted, than is the 
French to the badinage of prose. Ariosto gained credit 
for these bagatelles, in an age when Bembo, Molza, and 
many others were his contemporaries, who, to this hour, 
are chiefly known by such things, and nothing better. 
But, for some reason or other which is not apparent, 
Ariosto was certainly looked up to, and renowned by 
anticipation, for a long contemplated achievement of 


equal daring to any of the knights' adventures which in 
due course he celebrated, and which proved not less 
successful in the issue than his own " Astolpho's 
Journey to the Moon ;" for in this (the " Orlando Fu- 
rioso)," the madness of his hero covered him with more 
glory than the restoring of the Paladin's lost wits did the 
rider of the hippogriff. Ariosto, indeed, was the very 
Astolpho of song, and both his Paladins and their coun- 
tries must be sought in the moon, or nowhere. 

He was, during the greater portion of this eventful 
period of his life, in the service of cardinal Hippolito 
d'Este, who affected to be a Maecenas, and who, at least 
as much from vanity and ostentation as from genuine 
taste or delight in their compositions, assembled round 
him the prime scholars and wits of the age. By some 
of his biographers, the poet is said to have received 
munificent proofs that the princely ecclesiastic knew 
how to value the endowments of the Muses more than 
personages of his rank are wont to do. But this seems 
very questionable, from the poet's own account of his 
patron's bounty in his second Satire, which may be 
noticed hereafter. Leisure and competence, however, 
he must have enjoyed during this irksome and almost 
menial servitude, under which, with all its debasements, 
heproducedhis "Orlando Furioso." Having commenced 
the poem, he communicated the specimen and plan to 
his friend cardinal Bembo, who, influenced by the pe- 
dantic prejudice formerly alluded to, seriously advised 
him to compose it in Latin ; a language in which, 
with all the mastery that a modern could attain over it, 
the licentious fables of chivalry licentious in every 
sense, in diction, sentiment, plot, narrative, and morals, 
would have appeared as heterogeneous and outlandish as 
the wrath of Achilles in Chinese, or the piety of ./Eneas 
in Sanscrit. Mr. Roscoe says of Sanazzaro and Bembo, 
who were brother rivals for the honours of Parnassus, 
that while the former " turned all his talents for the im- 
provement of Latin poesy, the latter persevered in culti- 


vating his native tongue."* Most people can give better 
advice than they take : Bembo, it seems, took better than 
he gave ; and Ariosto had sagacity enough to follow his 
counsellor's example rather than his precept, nobly an- 

| swering, " I would rather stand among the first of 

; writers in my own tongue, than below Ovid or Virgil 

| himself in theirs." 

This task, therefore, for fifteen years, he pursued, 

J with occasional external interruptions, but none proba- 
bly from within ; for, his mind being impregnated 
with the. great conception, he could not help brooding 
over it by day and by night, amidst business and plea- 
sure, in crowds and in solitude, at Rome as ambassador 
from the duke to the pope, and at Ferrara as a courtier 
in the palace of cardinal Hippolito; but especially at 
his birth-place, Reggio, in the retirement of a villa 
belonging to one of his maternal relatives, Sigismondo 
Malegucci. Here, in one of the chambers of an ancient 

J tower within the domain, he elaborated canto after canto 
of that most anomalous yet impressive poem, which, 
while it appears as unconnected as a tissue of dreams 
in its details, (as it resembles the stuff which dreams are 
made of in its materials,) is nevertheless one of the most 
perfect webs of narrative that fancy ever spun, or genius 
wove, from the silkworm produce of a poet's brain. 

J No rival composition of the same or any other class of 

' heroic verse has yet proved equally attractive to Italian 
readers in every rank of life ; though, in the ff Gerusa- 
lemme Liberata" of Tasso, consummate skill and genius 
of the highest order have constructed an epic according 
to the strictest rules of art, to conciliate the learned, and 
at the same time embellished it with all the graces of 
romance, to charm the multitude, who love to be pleased, 
because they cannot help it, and care not by what means, 
so that these be but " rich and strange." 

Meanwhile the duke of Ferrara, wishing to pacify 

J the wrath of Julius*!!., who threatened him not only 

with the thunders of the Vatican (which were no im- 

" History of Leo X. vol. L p. 9L 4to. 


potent artillery in those days), but with (c force and 
arms," in the strongest sense of the legal verbiage, so 
terribly illustrated in appeals to the sword ; it is no 
small proof of the ability and address in worldly affairs 
of one who lived amidst a creation of ideals of his own 
rearing, that Ariosto was despatched as ambassador to 
Rome on this occasion. Though in the sequel he did 
not effect his purpose of appeasing the ferocious pontiff, 
yet, by his eloquence, he persuaded him to feign a 
milder mood, and send an answer whicli meant less 
favour than the words seemed to imply. For soon 
afterwards, Julius, who had set his heart upon adding 
Ferrara to the ecclesiastical states, entered into a league 
with the Venetians, who coveted Padua as the quarter 
adjacent to their territories ; and, while his holiness 
furnished an army, the doge sent a fleet up the Po, to 
attack the capital of Alfonso at once by land and by 
water. The papal forces, however, were defeated at 
the battle of Ravenna, and the republican squadron 
was beaten, dispersed, or captured on the river. On 
this occasion, Ariosto, unlike Horace (his master in 
verse, but not in arms), fought gallantly, and made 
prize of one of the enemy's richest vessels, laden with 
military stores. This appears to be authenticated, though 
he himself never alludes to the circumstance in his 
Satires (when he is boasting of his services, and mur- 
muring at their ill requital), and notwithstanding his 
reputed timidity on the water. At the same time, the 
proof usually given of the latter, it must be allowed, 
is too equivocal to establish the fact ; namely, that 
when he had occasion to disembark, he would pertina- 
ciously wait till every body else had landed, before he 
would venture to descend from the deck, using the 
phrase, " de puppe novissimus exi :" but the coolest 
captain, when his ship is wrecked or foundering, makes 
it a point of honour and duty to be the last to abandon 
it. He is likewise said to have been as indifferent a 
horseman, as good seamen often are (though he was 
none), riding slowly and cautiously, and alighting on 



the least appearance of peril or inconvenience in his 
way. Personally a coward he may have been, but 
mentally courageous he undoubtedly was : there is no 
deficiency of spirit traceable in his conduct on some 
trying occasions,, any more than there is in his verses 
at any time. Indeed, one who had not the keenest 
intellectual delight in the boldest enterprises, the most 
appalling dangers, and difficulties insurmountable except 
by magic intervention, would hardly have written " Or- 
lando Furioso ;" for in no work of imagination does the 
author more effectually dispossess himself of himself, 
and become for the time being the knight or the giant 
whose exploits he is celebrating. 

After his victories, Alfonso, still anxious to conciliate 
the pope, proposed a second embassy to Rome ; but 
none of his other diplomatists being willing to hazard 
themselves in the presence of the fiery Julius, Ariosto 
was again induced to accept the charge, no mean proof 
of constitutional intrepidity, or else an ascendancy of mind 
over nerves which few philosophers have attained. Ac- 
cordingly he set out ; but (as he tells us himself in one 
of his Satires) after escaping all the hazards of the way, 
every where infested by brigands in those troublous 
times, he met with so uncourteous a reception from the 
chafed pontiff, that he was glad to escape as quietly and 
secretly as he could, having received information that, 
as Alfonso's proxy, he ran no small risk of being treated 
as the holy father would have been happy to have 
treated his master, had he presented himself at the 
Vatican. Indeed, Julius is said to have openly threat- 
ened to throw the poet into the sea, if he did not make 
his way back as speedily as he might ; a hint of which 
Ariosto promptly availed himself, not presuming to en- 
tertain a hope, had he been cast upon the mercy of the 
waves, that he should have the good fortune of Arion, 
to charm the dolphins with his minstrelsy, after finding 
that the sacred laurel, which even the lightning spares *, 

* The lightning did not spare the laurelled bust of Ariosto, on his monu- 
ment at Ferrara, some years ago ; for the wreath (being of iron) was 



could not make his head inviolable at Rome, j Alfonso 
himself, in one of his fruitless negotiations with the 
implacable Julius, being at Rome, and under safe con- 
duct, was so alarmed by the perfidious treatment which 
he experienced from the pontiff (who in the mean time, 
during a truce, had seized Reggio, and demanded Fer- 
rara in exchange for his unjust capture), that he deemed 
it prudent to make his retreat in the various disguises 
of a huntsman, a livery servant, and a friar, under the 
protection of the family of Colonna, who by force res- 
cued him from state-confinement in the Vatican, under 
the abused name of hospitality. 

But the duke retaliated in a singular manner for the 
indignity shown to himself and his representative. The 
French having taken Bologna, a superb bronze statue 
of the military pope, by Michel Angelo, was pulled 
down from its pedestal, and dragged by the populace 
through the mire about the city, after which it was 
sent as a present to Alfonso. The indignant duke (a 
reckless barbarian in this instance), showing as little 
respect for the exquisite workmanship of the sculptor 
as he felt for the piety of the pope, with a felicity of 
revenge almost to be forgiven for its appropriateness, 
ordered the rich metal to be sent to the furnace, and 
re-cast into a cannon, to which he gave the name of 
Julio. The head, however, was spared, and placed 
as a trophy in the state museum. Julius never forgave 
the duke, either for the fault of his ancestors in be- 
queathing to him a territory which the see of Rome 
coveted, or for his own sin in defending that territory 
so successfully against both spiritual and secular vio- 
lence, that he himself (the greatest warrior who ever 
wore the triple crown) could not wrest it from him. 
The disappointed pope expired, exclaiming, in his deli- 
rium, " Out of Italy, ye French I Out, Alfonso of 

struck off from the marble temples by a flash, which entered the church 
during a thunderstorm. 
* " At Bologna, Michel Angelo erected, in front of the church of St 


The first edition of the " Orlando Furioso" appeared 
in 1 515, eleven years after its commencement ; a second 
and third, highly improved, followed in the course of 
six jjears ; and the last from his hand, in 1532, the year 
of the poet's death. In each succeeding reprint, so many 
and such large amendments, exclusions, and variations 
of the original text were adopted, that the example has 
been very properly held up to young writers as worthy 
of their diligent imitation never to think their best 
performances perfect while a touch is wanting which 
they can give to heighten their beauty, or a blemish 
remaining to lower it, which they can remove. In fact, 
Ariosto ceased not to elaborate his apparently completed 
work to the latest period of his life. Long after it had 
attained its full standard of bulk, this sole tree of 
his fancy continued to flourish, by the perpetuation of 
the same process which had reared it, putting forth 
fairer leaves and richer fruit, in perennial course, till 
the failure of further supply, from his own decay, left 
it to survive him in imperishable maturity. The prin- 
cipal interrruptions of his literary labours seem to 
have been the necessary dissipation of mind during the 
aforementioned unfortunate embassies to Rome, his 
brief government of the disturbed province of Graffa- 
gnana, and occasional fits of silence which came upon 
him when his heart was wrung and his pride wounded 
by the inconsiderate neglect or the more flagrant in- 
gratitude of mean-spirited patrons. Of the latter, car- 
dinal Hippolito was the chief; and the cause of their 
mutual estrangement was the refusal of the poet to 

/ Petronio, a statue of Julius II. in bronze, which he is said to have exe- 

cuted so as to express, in the most energetic manner, those qualities for 
which he was distinguished ; giving grandeur and majesty to his person, 
and courage, promptitude, and ferociousness to his countenance, while 
even the drapery was remarkable for the boldness and magnificence of its 
folds. When Julius saw the model, and observed the vigour of the atti- 
tude, and the energy with which the right arm was extended, he enquired 
from the artist, whether he meant to represent him as dispensing his bene- 
diction or his curse. Michel Angelo prudently replied, that he meant to 
represent him in the act of admonishing the citizens of Bologna. In re- 
turn, the artist requested to know from his holiness, whether he would 
have a book in his hand. ' No,' replied Julius ; ' give me a sword, I am no 

- scholar.' " Roscoe's Leo X. vol. iv. p. 306. 4to edition. 


accompany the haughty priest as one of his retinue on 
a journey to Hungary to visit his archbishopric of Se- 
govia, which had been bestowed upon him when he 
was not more than eighteen years old, by king Matteo 
Corvino, whose queen Beatrice was sister to Leonora of 
Aragon, Hippolito's mother. This spoiled child of for- 
tune was not only cardinal, priest, statesman, and war- 
rior (in each of which characters he greatly signalised 
himself, according to the lax notions of .morality then 
prevalent) ; but in one instance, at least, he was a 
lover also, and a rejected one, who wreaked upon his 
favoured rival a revenge which has made his memory 
infamous. It appears that Hijjpolito, and his illegi- 
timate brother don Giulio, both paid their addresses 
(dishonourable ones they must have been on the car- 
dinal's part) to a lady of Ferrara, of singularly attrac- 
tive accomplishments, who (if marriage were the 
question to be decided by the courtship of either), it 
may be presumed, very naturally preferred him with 
whom a virtuous alliance might be formed. Hippolito, 
pressing her one day to acknowledge the ground of her 
preference, she laid the blame of her love on Giulio's 
beautiful eyes. The cardinal secretly determined to dis- 
solve that charm ; and soon after, accompanying his bro- 
ther on the chase, in a solitary situation, he led him 
into an ambush of assassins, who sprang upon the un- 
suspecting youth, dragged him from his horse, and tore 
out his eyes, while Hippolito stood by, directing the 
operation, and exulting in the extinction of those fatal 
luminaries that stood in his light. Guicciardini, indeed, 
says, that though Giulio's eyes were plucked out (tratti) 
by the cardinal, they were replaced, without the loss of 
sight (riposti senza perdita del lume nel luogo loro), by 
the prompt and careful skill of the chirurgeons. Be 
this as it might, the man concerning whom such a story 
could be told, and believed by contemporaries, must 
have had a character for cruelty and selfishness, which 
renders probable the arrogance, vindictiveness, and 
VOL. i. p 


tyranny towards his dependents, of which Ariosto so 
bitterly, yet so humbly and playfully, complains in his 
Satires, whenever he alludes to his connection with Hip- 
polito. The magnanimous conduct of Alfonso towards 
the same unfortunate youth was strikingly contrasted 
with the treachery and barbarity of Hippolito : for the 
duke not punishing the cardinal or his accomplices for 
this outrage, Giulio and his brother Ferdinand con- 
spired against his life. The plot was discovered ; and 
the brothers, having confessed their criminal purpose, 
were adjudged to lose N their heads on the scaffold ; but 
while the axe was suspended over them, their sentence 
was changed into one of perpetual imprisonment. Fer- 
dinand, after suffering this for thirty years, died ; but 
Giulio, at the expiration of fifty-two years, was set at 

The poet was, no doubt, proud of his own ancient 
blood, and jealous of his personal independence, while 
he coveted that leisure for the pursuits of literature, on 
which the felicity of his existence, and the glory of his 
name, in a great measure depended ; feelings little un- 
derstood or little regarded by superficial grandees, 
whether in church or state, in respect to those over 
whom they held authority or influence. A poet, more 
than any other man, lives within himself ; and to do 
this he must have freedom, ease, and competence, how- 
ever small : nor is it less for the benefit of others that 
he should enjoy these necessaries of literary life ; since 
they are to reap the harvest of his hermit-thoughts, 
sown in secret and cherished in solitude, till they 
grow into beauty, like plants undistinguished till their 
blossoms appear, or till they shine through obscurity 
like stars that come out between light and darkness, 
because they can no longer be hidden. To writers of 
every other class, valuable as self-searching, self-know- 
ledge, and self-gratification may be, for their various 
exercises and undertakings, they draw or collect the 

* Leo X. vol. ii. p. 52. 


greater portion of their materials for study and com- 
position from their converse with ordinary and public 
affairs, the records of the dead or the living, past or 
contemporary characters, manners, and events. The 
historian, the moralist, or the philosopher, may please 
and profit his own generation, and bequeath intellectual 
stores of wealth to posterity, by representing the images, 
tastes, and employments of his own times ; but the 
poet, the perpetual poet, he who alone is a poet in the 
highest sense, whatever be his theme, and how similar 
soever his materials may be to those of others, must 
mould his subject according to the archetypes in his 
own mind, and yet cause such an universal and undy- 
ing spirit to pervade it, as shall by sympathy make his 
thoughts understood and enjoyed in all ages and 
countries, among all people who can read his lan- 

Hippolito, praised as he has been for his patronage 
of letters and arts, and poetically canonised by Ariosto 
himself, throughout the ef Orlando Furioso," in strains 
as unworthy of his genius as they were unmerited by 
the hero of it, seems to have been a jackdaw patron, who 
loved to prank himself with the peacock-feathers of court- 
poets, and strut before them, well plucked, in his train. 
It is clear that he very in differently appreciated those 
talents which were the admiration of all Italy, and as 
little understood the temper of their possessor. The 

* Ariosto seems to have had a horror of travelling under any circum- 
stances : 

" Men's tastes are various : one prefers the church, 
The camp another ; this his native soil, 
That foreign countries ; as for me, who will 
May travel to and fro, to visit France, 
Spain, England, Hungary ; but I love home. 
Lombardy, Rome, and Florence I have seen ; 
The mountains that divide, and those that gird, 
Fair Italy, and either sea that bathes her ; 
This is enough for me. Without expense 
Of innkeepers, I roam with Ptolemy 
O'er all the world beside, in peace or war; 
I sail on every sea, nor make vain vows 
When lightnings flash, for, safe, along the chart, 
I see more lands than from the reeling deck." Satire IV. 

p 2 


proud cardinal scarcely rated them any higher than in- 
asmuch as they afforded him the insolent gratification 
of saying (to exalt himself ) that such rare endowments 
belonged to one of the creatures whom he affected to 
keep about him, who would fetch and carry for their 
patron, while they dare not call their souls their own 
if souls they had, who could sell them for the luxury of 
eating toads, with pleasant countenances, in the great 
man's presence, and deserving the contempt with which 
they were treated by submitting to it. To the honour 
of Ariosto he was not one of this reptile species, though 
his narrow circumstances through life compelled him to 
eat bitter bread at tables where he would have loved to 
sit, if he could have found a place there otherwise than 
as a dependant. In his second satire he expatiates on the 
degradation of that bondage, from which his own high 
spirit, and the cardinal's mean one, had freed him. 
Writing to his brother Alessandro, who had followed 
his highness into Hungary, he inquires whether the 
latter ever names him, or alludes to his pertinacity in 
remaining behind : he then breaks into indignant com- 
plaints against the cardinal's courtiers, for misrepresenting 
the motives of his conduct : " Oh ! ye, profoundly 
learned in adulation ! the art which you most cultivate 
and study still countenances him to blame me beyond 
measure. Mad is the man who dares to contradict his 
master, even though he say that he has seen the stars 
at noon, the sun at midnight. When he commends 
or censures, every voice, on either hand, is heard with 
one accord approving ; and if there be a solitary one 
that has not hardihood, from downright baseness, to open 
a mouth, with his whole visage he applauds, and every 
feature says, ' I too agree with that.' " The writer 
proceeds to recapitulate the reasons, " many and true,'* 
which he had stated to the cardinal himself, face to 
face, without disguise, why he should stay at home. 
Several of these are whimsical enough, but they show 
the humour of the man ; and may be comprised thus 
summarily : 


" I have no wish to make my life shorter than for- 
tune and my stars shall please. Now every change, 
however slight, would aggravate my malady (an inve- 
terate asthma), and I should either die of it, or my two 
physicians are mistaken. But over and above what 
they may say, I understand my own case best, and what 
is good and what is bad for me. My constitution ill 
endures hard winters, and theirs beneath the pole 
(Hungary beneath the pole ! the poet was always a 
strange geographer, but here he is playing) are more 
intense than ours in Italy. And if the cold should not 
blast me, the heat would, from stoves which I abomi- 
nate so much, that I shun them more than the plague. 
Besides all this, the folks so dress, and eat and drink, 
and play ; in short, do every thing but sleep, in that 
strange land in winter, that, were I forced to gulp the 
air, so difficult to breathe, from the Riphean mountains, 
what with the vapours arising from my stomach, and 
the rheum falling on my lungs, 1 certainly should die 
some night of suffocation. Then heady wines, which 
are prohibited to me as mortal poison, are by the guests 
swilled down in monstrous draughts, for not to drink 
much and undiluted is sacrilege there. All their food 
too is high seasoned with pepper and spices, which my 
doctor condemns as pernicious for me. Here you may 
say, that 1 might sit down below stairs in a snug chim- 
ney corner, far from the ill savour of the company, 
where the cook would prepare my victuals to my own 
liking, and I might water my wine at my will, and 
drink little or none at all. What ! while you are all 
well and feasting above, must I sit from morning till 
night alone in my cell, alone at my board, like a Car- 
thusian ? Then pots and pans for kitchen and cham- 
ber would be wanted, and I must have a dower of 
household furniture settled on me like a new married 
bride. Supposing, nevertheless, that master Pasquin, 
the cook, were pleased to dress dinner for me apart ; 
once or twice he might do it, but assuredly the fourth 
p 3 


or sixth time, he would set all his face in arms against 
me ( mi far a 7 viso delV arme). * * * * You will 
reply, ' begin housekeeping then in your own way, at 
your own expense; your footman may be your caterer,, 
and you can cook and eat your pullets at your own fire- 
side ! ' Mighty well ! but by my unlucky servitude 
under the cardinal, I have not got enough to set up an 
hotel for myself in his palace. And thanks to thee, 
Apollo ! thanks to you, ye sacred college of the Muses ! 
from youi bounty I have not received so much as would 
buy me a cloak. ' Oh, but your patron has given you 
something ! '* I grant it ; something more than 
would buy me a cloak ; but that it was given me for 
your sake, I don't believe. He has said, and I am free 
to tell it to every body, that I may put my verses 
(there is an untranslatable quibble in the original) where 
I like. His praises composed by me are not the kind 
of services which he deems worthy of recompence ; he 
doles out his rewards to those who ride post for him, 
follow him in the park and the city ; who don and doff 
his clothes, and put his wine flasks in the well that they 
may be cool at the nones ; he recompenses those who 
watch for him at nights, till the smiths rise in the morn- 
ing to make nails, so that they often fall asleep with the 
torches burning in their hands. When I have made 
verses in honour of him. he says, I have done so for my 
own pleasure and idleness ; whereas it would be far 
more agreeable to him to have me about his own per- 
son." After further complaints against his patron, 
scorn of that patron's flatterers, and vindication of him- 
self for not being one of these, the angry poet exclaims, 
" What could I do in such a case ? I have no skill to 
shoot partridges flying ; nor to hold a hawk or a grey- 
hound in leash. Let lads learn such arts, who wish to 
practise them. Nor can I conveniently stoop to draw 
on or pull off his boots and spurs, seeing I am somewhat 
tall. I have not much taste for victuals, and as for 

* Apollo and the Muses are supposed to speak here, and Ariosto replies 
to them. 


carving, I might very well have served that office in 
the age of the world when men fed on acorns. I would 
not choose to superintend Gismondi's* housekeeping 
accounts, nor does it fall to my lot to gallop again to 
Rome to appease the fury of the second Julius ; but 
even if it did, at my time of life, with this cough, 
which I probably caught on such an occasion, it does not 
suit me any longer to run about the streets. If then 
to perform such drudgery, and seldom to go out of his 
presence, but stand there like Bootes by the Great Bear, 
if this be required of the man who thirsts for gold, 
rather than enrich myself thus, I choose repose ; repose, 
rather than to occupy myself with cares for which my 
studies must be abandoned and plunged into Lethe, 
studies that do not, indeed, furnish pasture for the body, 
but feast the mind with food so noble that they deserve 
not to be neglected. And thus they do for me, they 
make poverty less painful, and wealth to be so little 
desired, that for the love of it I will not part with my 
freedom : they cause me not to want that which I hope 
not to obtain ; and that neither envy nor spleen consume 
me when my lord invites Celio and Marone, while I 
cannot expect to be seen at supper with his highness at 
Midsummer ; amidst a blaze of torches, blinded Avith 
their smoke. Here I walk alone and on foot wherever 
I please, and when I choose to ride, I throw my saddle 
bags over my horse's back and mount : and this I hold 
to be a lesser sin than taking a bribe to recommend the 
cause of a vassal to the prince ; or harassing a parish 
by iniquitous lawsuits, till the people offer pensions to 
stay proceedings. Wherefore I lift up both hands to 
heaven, and pray, that either among citizens or country- 
men, I may live in peace under my own roof, and that 
by means of my small patrimony, I may be enabled to 
spend the remainder of my days without learning a 
new craft, or making my family blush for me." In 

* The cardinal's steward. 

p 4 


the sequel of the epistle, the relenting poet (a freeman 
at heart, a slave by court habit) condescends to make 
an offer of certain honorary services which he could 
render to the cardinal at home (not having " felt himself 
so stout and nimble as to leap from the banks of the Po to 
those of the Danube"), but before he has well con- 
cluded his humiliating overture, the exasperation, of 
which neither scorn, philosophy, nor poetic pride could 
rid his wounded spirit,, returns like an access of disease 
upon him, and he breaks out into a rhodomontade of 
defiance. In this passage it is hard to know whether 
the unhappy writer be most entitled to pity, censure, 
or admiration : pity for unmerited harshness from his 
patron ; censure for a manifest hankering towards sy- 
cophancy ; and admiration for his magnanimous resolve, 
at any rate, to choose freedom and penury rather than 
abundance and bondage. " If," he says, " for a bene- 
fice bestowed on me of five and twenty crowns every 
four months (yet not so well secured but that they are 
often litigated), his highness has a right to make me 
wear a chain, hold me as a bondman, and oblige me 
to sweat and tremble before him, without any regard, 
till I break down and die, let him not imagine such a 
thing, but tell him plainly that, rather than be a slave, 
I will bear poverty in patience." He goes on : 

" An ass, all bones and gristle with hard fare, 
Entering a granary through a broken wall, 
Made such enormous havoc with the corn, 
That his thin flanks were rounded like a tun, 
And he had had enough, which was not soon. 
Then, fearing lest his hide must pay the cost, 
He struggled to get back the way he came, 
But found the chink too narrow now to let him. 
Thus, while he fretted, pushed, and squeez'd in vain, 
A rat addressed him : ' Sir, it' you would pass, 
You must make friends with that great paunch of yours ; 
Behoves you to disgorge what you have swallow'd, 
And e'en grow lean again, or never hope 
To thread the needle's eye of that small hole.' 
So, in conclusion, if his Eminence 
Imagines he has bought me with his gifts, 
*T will be no hard or bitter thing to me 
Straight to return them, and reclaim my freedom." 

To aggravate the poet's misfortune, about this time, 
or, in the words of his first English translator, sir John 


Harrington, " to mend the matter, one taking occasion 
of this eclipse of the cardinal's favour put him in suit 
for a piece of land of his ancient inheritance, which 
was not only a great vexation to his mind, but a charge 
to his purse and travail to his body ; for undoubtedly 
the clattering of armour, the noise of great ordnance, 
the sound of the trumpet and drum, and the neighing 
of horses, do not so much trouble the sweet Muses, as 
the brabbling of lawyers, the pattering of attorneys, and 
the civil war, or rather most uncivil disagreeing, of fore- 
sworn jurors/' 

After the death of Hippolito, who was never recon- 
ciled to him, Ariosto was persuaded to enter into the 
service of the cardinal's brother, Ajfonso the duke, who, 
if he neither exalted nor enriched the poet greatly, 
honoured him for his genius, delighted in his society, 
and enabled him to build a house to his own fancy in 
the midst of an ample garden. This gave him an op- 
portunity of indulging in one of his peculiar tastes, in 
which, however, it was not easy to please himself, for 
the pleasure rather consisted in trying to do so by 
modelling and remodelling, and making experiment 
after experiment on whatever he had in hand. Thus 
his mansion was constructed by piecemeal, pulled down 
in like manner, enlarged, reduced, amended over and 
over again before he permitted it to stand, or deemed it 
worthy of the following quaint inscription, which he 
placed over the entrance : 

" Parva sed apta mihi, sed nulli obnoxia, sed non 
t Sordida, parta meo scd tainen sere domus." 

" 'T is small but fit for me, gives none offence, 
Not mean, yet builded at my own expense." 

" A verse," says sir John Harrington, with an em- 
phasis as though he spoke from experience, " which 
few of the builders of this latter day could truly write, 
or, at least, if they could, I would lay that their houses 
were strongly built, indeed, for more than the third 
heir." When asked by a friend how it happened that 


he who,, in " building the lofty rhyme/' had reared so 
many superb palaces, could submit to dwell under so 
humble a roof, he very ingenuously replied, <f Words are 
sooner put together than bricks and mortar." Yet in 
constructing his verse he was equally fastidious ; no 
poet probably ever bestowed more patience and pains in 
weighing syllables, collocating sounds, balancing periods, 
and adjusting the nicest points that bore upon the har- 
mony, splendour, or fluency of his compositions ; yet it 
is the charm of his style that the whole seems as natural 
as if the thoughts had told themselves in their own 
words. In stocking his garden, and, training his 
flowers, Ariosto is said to have been not less fickle and 
capricious than in framing his habitation and adapting 
his poetical numbers ; but with far less felicity ; for, 
like a child impatient to witness the growth of his 
plants, he would pull them up from time to time to see 
how the roots were thriving below ground, as well as 
how they shot upwards. This plan, however it might 
suit masonry to practise on dead materials, or poetry to 
weave and disentangle rhythmical cadences, was ill 
adapted to gardening. 

It was still, however, and to his life's end, the mis- 
fortune of Ariosto to struggle against the solicitudes, 
discomforts, and mortifications of narrow and precarious 
circumstances. His own family were long dependent 
upon him for entire subsistence, or occasional aid ; yet 
he seems to have kept his inheritance, small as it was, 
unimpaired, otherwise he could not have looked to it as 
a last resource, when courtly favour, whether of prelate 
or prince, should be withdrawn. What regular sti- 
pends he might receive for his services from Hippolito 
and Alfonso, is nowhere recorded, beyond the five and 
twenty crowns every four months, bestowed by the 
former, when he could get them, by fair means or foul, 
from those who were to pay them ; and according to 
some of his biographers, withdrawn from him by his 
patron, after their quarrel. But it appears that he en- 
joyed the revenues of some ecclesiastical benefices, 


though not in priest's orders, and that, though not 
married, he had two sons, whom he educated liherally. 
In his third satire, he assigns a very equivocal reason 
for this not very equivocal conduct ; for who will pre- 
tend that both circumstances were not greatly to his dis- 
credit, though countenanced in simony and licentiousness 
by the shameless practices of many of his most honour- 
able contemporaries : " 1 will not take orders, because 
then I can never take a wife ; I will not take a wife 
because then I can never take orders, and I am shy of 
tying a knot, which, if I repent, I cannot loose." From 
popes, cardinals, and princes, both native and foreign, 
he is said to have received large gifts, in return for 
copies of his poems, and in compliment to those rare 
talents, by which he furnished the most popular, as 
well as the most fashionable reading of all who spoke 
the Italian tongue, or understood it : yet few of these 
are so authenticated as to confer unquestionable credit 
on the presumed donors. 

Among Ariosto's patrons, next to Hippolito, Pope 
Leo X. seems to have most excited and most disap- 
pointed his reasonable expectations, not to call them his 
positive claims ; for in some instances at least, where 
promises have been made to the hope, the iniquity of 
breaking them to the heart is only not felony, because 
the law cannot punish it. It is said by one (Gabriele 
Simeoni in his Satire on Avarice), that " to Leo, the light 
and mirror of courtesy, we are primarily indebted for 
the pleasure of hearkening to the lays of Ariosto, that 
pontiff having given him several hundred crowns to per- 
fect his work." Another apocryphal authority affirms, 
that pope Leo X. issued a bull in favour of the " Orlando 
Furioso," denouncing excommunication against any one 
who should presume to censure its poetry or its morals. 
This has been explained into a mere matter of form, 
namely, a licence to print and publish the work, with a 
denunciation against those who should defraud the 
author of the lawful profits arising from the sale ; a 
licence, by the way, of little value; since we have learned 


already from himself, long after the publication of the 
poem, that from " Apollo and the sacred college of the 
Muses/' a palpable hit at the pope and the sacred col- 
lege of cardinals, against whom he seldom spares a 
stroke of raillery, he never received so much as would 
buy him a cloak. A bull of some kind or other was 
granted to him by Leo, according to his own confession 
in Satire VII. ; but if that which is once well done is 
twice done, that which is only half done must be next to 
nothing : he received only a moiety of the sum raised by 
it, which seems to have been as little productive as some of 
our church briefs, or those letters of royal licence to beg, 
which have been granted in this country to recompense 
learned men for their labours, as in the case of Stow 
the antiquary. Paulo Rolli, himself a poet of no mean 
rank (who translated " Paradise Lost" into Italian), in 
his note on a passage in the sixth Satire, says that Leo, 
" otherwise the great friend of the learned, did not pro- 
mote Ariosto, because his holiness inherited from Julius 
II. implacable hatred against Alfonso duke of Ferrara, 
and a greedy desire to possess that city. It did not, 
therefore, agree with his policy to give Ariosto a car- 
dinal's hat, because, being a subject of Alfonso's, the poet 
would not only do no wrong to the duke ; but, on the 
contrary, honoured as he was by his sovereign, he would 
employ all his influence to thwart the injurious designs 
of the pontiff against the latter. What marvel., then, 
that Leo, like mighty men in every age, should prefer 
his own ambition to the great friendship and esteem in 
which he held Ariosto ; since ambition, when united 
with personal interest, swallows up all other passions !" 
But what claims had Ariosto on the bounty of Leo X.? 
The fact is certain, that, previous to the elevation of 
Giovanni de' Medici, under that name, to the papal 
chair (not in prosperity only, but in exile and captivity 
after the battle of Ravenna), Ariosto had been on terms 
of the most cordial intimacy that can be supposed to 
have subsisted between persons so unequally circum- 
stanced with regard to birth, but having in common 


one passionate attachment to elegant literature. In 
Ariosto this was supreme, in Leo it was only secondary ; J 
hence the heartless ingratitude of the priest on the one 
hand, and the wormwood and gall of chagrin, that ex- 
asperated the poet on the other. But his own authority 
on the subject is the best ; and if not the most correct, 
it has the merit of being the most amusing represent- 
ation of the game of self-delusion at which both played 
and both lost (the one his honour, and the other his 
reward) ; for there is no reason to doubt of Giovanni [ 
de' Medici's affection towards his friend, and his purpose 
to serve him being as sincere till he had the means of 
doing so as the poet's hopes were natural and ingenuous. 
Time has avenged the injured party, and Ariosto's 
fourth Satire adds little to the glory of the golden days J 
of Leo. While the latter was a whelp, he fondled his 
playmate the spaniel ; when he came to lion's estate, he 
had too many foxes and wolves about his den to care 
for his former companion. ee Until the time" when he ! 
went to Rome to be made lion * (Leo), I was always 
agreeable to him, and apparently he loved few persons 
more than me. Often hath he said, when he was legate 
and in Florence, that if need were, he would make no 
difference between me and his own brother. Hence 
some might imagine, that being at Rome, it would have 
been easy for me to have slipt my head out of a black 
hood into a green one. I answer those who may think 
so with an example ; read it, for it will cost you less 
to read than me to write." 

This, as well as some former and following extracts 
from the Satires, are given, for variety's sake, in slip- 
shod verse : 

" The ground, one summer, was so parch 'd with drought, 
Itseem'd as though Apollo had resign'd 
His horses' reins to Phaeton again : 
Dry every well, and every fountain dry ; 

* " E fin ch'a Roma s'andb a far leone." Satire JV. 

" a crearlo 
Leon d' umile agneL" Satire VIL 


Lakes, streams, and rivers most renown'd, might then 
Be forded without bridges. 

" In that time, 

There lived a pastor, rich 1 do not say, 
Nor overstock'd with herds and woolly flocks, 
Who, among others, press'd by want of water, 
And having search'd in vain through every cave, 
Turn'd to that Lord who never disappoints 
The man that trusts in him ; and light was given, 
And inspiration to his heart, that he, 
Far thence, should in a valley's bottom find 
The long-desired supply. 

" Off, with his wife, 

Children, and all that in the world he had, 
He hasten 'd thither, and with spade and mattock 
Delved to the spring, nor had he deep to dig. 
But having nothing wherewithal to draw, 
Save one scant narrow pitcher, thus he spake : 
. ' Let none take dudgeon, if the earliest draught 
Be for myself; the second for my dame ; 
And 't is but right my children have the third, 
The fourth, and on, till all have slaked their thirst j 
Then, one by one, I will the rest should drink, 
According to their work and labour done, 
Who sunk the well ; to flocks and cattle next 
Refreshment must be forth distributed, 
First to the feeblest and the nearest death.' 

" According to this equitable rule, 
All came to drink ; while each, that he might not 
Be last, made most of his small services. 
This, a poorjmagpie, once his master's pet, 
Seeing and hearing, cried, ' Ah ! well-a-day ! 
I 'm no relation, I 've not help'd to sink 
The well, nor am of any further use 
To be to him what I have been ; 't is plain 
That if I wait my turn, I 'm in the lurch, 
And must drop dead with thirst unless 1 seek 
Relief elsewhere.' 

" Cousin *, with this example 
I furnish you, to stop the mouths of those 
Who think his holiness might have preferr'd 
Me to the Nert, Vanni, Lotti, Eacci, 
Nephews and kin so numerous, claiming right 
To drink in the first year ; then those that help'd 
To robe him with the best of mantles, &c. &c. &c. 

* * * * 

If till all these have drunk their fill I wait, 
I know not which will be the first dried up, 
The well of water, or myself by thirst." 

The poet, alluding in direct terms to his visit to Rome, 
and his specious reception by Leo, says, "" I had better 
remain in ray accustomed quiet, than try whether it be 
true, that whomsoever fortune exalts, she first dips in 
Lethe." The subtle irony that follows cannot be mis- 

* Annibale Maleguccio, to whom the Satire is addressed. 


taken in the original, while the indignant satirist, with 
the most unaffected gravity, and in right good faith, 
seems to acquit his patron of forgetfulness and ingrati- J 
tude, the very things with which it is certain that he 
means to charge him. Ariosto can keep his countenance 
like the Spartan boy, who, having stolen a fox, and 
hidden it under his cloak, suffered the animal to worry 
its way into his heart, without betraying, by any con- 
tortion, the secret of his theft. " Nevertheless, if it 
be the fact that she (Fortune) does plunge others there J 
(in Lethe), so that all remembrances of the past are 
washed out, I can testify that he (Leo) had not lost his 
memory when I first kissed his foot ; he bowed himself 
towards me from the blessed seat, took me by the hand, 
and gave me a holy kiss on either cheek ; he likewise 
granted me most graciously one half of that same bull 
of which my friend Bebiena lately remitted me the 
balance, at my own expense ; wherefore, with skirts and 
bosom full of hopes, but splashed from head to foot with 
rain and mud, I returned to supper at my inn the 
same night. But even if it be true that the pope means 
to make good all his former promises, and now intends 
me to reap fruit of the seed which I have sown through 
so many years ; if it be true that he will bestow upon 
me as many mitres and coronets as the master of his 
chapel ever saw assembled when his holiness says mass ; 
if it be true that he will fill my sleeves, my pockets, 
and my lap with gold, and, lest that should not be 
enough, cram me bodily with it up to the chin (la gola, 
il venire e le budella) ; would all this glut my enormous 
voracity for wealth ? or would the fierce thirst of my 
cerastes * be appeased with this ? From Morocco to 
China, from the Nile to the Danube, and not merely to 
Rome, I must travel, if I would find means to satiate 
the unnatural cravings of avarice. Were I a cardinal, 
or even the great servant of servants, and yet could not 

* A .serpent, supposed to have horns ; probably the hooded snake of the 
East Indies, one of the most venomous and deadly of the kind : here it 
is the emblem of avarice. 


find bounds to my inordinate desires, what good should 
I get by wearying myself with such huge leaps ? I had 
better lie still, and tire myself less." 

The fable which follows, typifies the mournful but 
ludicrous fact, that, while all who reach the heights they 
aim at are disappointed, that for which they aim at 
these being as unapproachable at the top of the hill as 
from the bottom, others are continually aspiring, 
through all the stages of the wearisome ascent, towards 
the very prize which the successful have not gained, 
though to those beneath it appears to be actually in 
their possession : 

" Once on a time, 'twas when the world was young, 
And the first race of men were inexperienced, 
For there were no such knaveries then as now, 
A certain people, whom 1 need not name, 
Dwelt at the foot of an enormous hill, 
Whose summit from the valley seem'd to touch 
The sky itself. 

" These simple folks, observing 
How oft the inconstant moon, now with a horn, 
And now without, now waxing, and now waning, 
Held through the firmament her natural course, 
Supposed that on the top they might find out 
How she enlarged, then shrunk into herself. 
One with a bag, another with a basket, 
Began to scale the precipice amain, 
Each eager in the strife to outclimb the rest ; 
But finding at the peak they were no nearer, 
All fell down weary on the earth, and wish'd 
Most heartily that they had stay'd below. 
Tbeir neighbours from the bottom seeing them : 
Aloof, believed that they had reach'd the moon, 
And hurried breathless up to share the spoil. 
This mountain is the mighty wheel of Fortune, 
Upon whose rim the stupid vulgar think 
All is tranquillity, though ne'er a bit." * 

With equal spleen and pleasantry, in the seventh 
Satire, the author, as an experienced hand, ridicules the 
favourite game of mankind, climbing the wheel of 
Fortune, and never finding themselves complete fools till 
they are quite at the top. The allusion (scarcely in- 
telligible in this country, where it is played in earnest 
only, and not for pastime) is to a game of cards, of 
which a pack is called tarrochi (trumps) : these are 
painted expressly in the manner described below, namely, 

* " Ch' ogni quiete sia, nfe ve n' fe alcuna." 


the transmigration, by instalments, of climbing men 
into asses ; and they are used for the purpose of playing 
at minchiate (blockhead), a common recreation at Flo- 
rence, and wherever else the reader pleases : 

" That pictured wheel, 1 own, annoys me sorely, 
Which every master paints in the same way, 
And such agreement cannot be a lie, 
When that which sits aloft they make an ass. 
Now every one may understand this riddle, 
Without the sphinx to interpret ; for, mark well, 
Each, as he climbs, begins to ossify 

From top to toe ; head, shoulders, arms, thence downward ; ' 
The limbs below remaining human still : "* 

that is, till having reached the summit, the man has the 
felicity to find himself an accomplished ass. The poet, 
immediately afterwards, applies this unlucky hieroglyphic 
to himself and his journey to Rome, to congratulate 
Leo X. on his accession to the triple crown. His ser- 
vices, expectations, and disappointments, while a wor- 
shipper of that golden calf of literary idolatry (whose 
rites have not yet ceased), are humorously but vin- 
dictively recapitulated. Illustrative of these, he intro- 
duces another fable in his own free and easy manner. 
La Fontaine himself might have borrowed from Ariosto 
the idea of that simple yet facetious style which dis- 
tinguishes his fables. To the disgrace of both, the 
Frenchman seems likewise to have borrowed from the 
Italian the model, as well as some of the materials, for 
his profligate tales. " My hope," says the forlorn 
satirist, " came with the first leaves and blossoms of 
spring, but withered without waiting for September. It 
came on the day when the church was given for a spouse 
to Leo, when I saw so many of my friends clad in 
scarlet at the nuptials. It came with the calends, and 
fled with the ides : remembering this, I can never again 
put confidence in man. My silly hope shot up to 
heaven, and spread over unknown lands, when the holy 

* " Vi si vide anco che ciascun che ascende 
Commincia a iyasinir le prime membre, 
resta umano quel che a dietro paude. " 
YOL. I. Q 


father'took me by the hand and kissed me on the cheeks ; 
but high as it rose, so low it fell, and oh ! in how short 
space of time ! " 

" There was a gourd which grew so lustily, " 
That in few days its foliage over.ran 
The loftiest branches of a neighbouring pear-tree. 
One morn, the latter, opening wide its eyes 
After a long sound nap, beheld new fruits 
Clustering luxuriantly around its head. 
Holla! ' it cried ; ' who are you ? and how came you ? 
Where were you when these wretched eyes of mine 
To slumber I resign'd ? ' The gourd replied 
Frankly ; declared its name and kindred ; show'd 
How it was planted at his honour's foot, 
And in three months had thriven to that height. 
' And I,' the pear-tree answer'd, ' hardly climb'd 
To this pre-eminence, through heat and cold, 
And wars with all the winds, in thirty years ! 
But you, who in the twinkling of an eye 
Have sprung to heaven, shall, with the self-same speed 
As you have risen, down dwindle to the root.' " 

Notwithstanding the neglect which he experienced at 
Rome, Ariosto was now enjoying ease and dignity at 
the court of Alfonso, compared with the servitude, or 
rather the servility, which Hippolito formerly exacted 
of his retainers. During this prosperous period of his 
life, he was appointed by his patron to a post of honour 
and difficulty, if not of emolument, which required the 
exercise of certain politic talents rarely possessed by 
poets, but which he must have possessed in no incon- 
siderable measure, judging by the trusts so repeatedly 
reposed in him. Graffagnana, a mountainous district 
lying between Modena and Lucca, and which had been 
wrested some years before by the pope from the duke of 
Ferrara, threw off the yoke, and returned to its former 
lord, upon the demise of Leo X. This tract of de- 
bateable land was occupied by a people proverbially rude, 
factious, and turbulent among themselves, as well as 
refractory towards the ill-established authorities set over 
them from time to time by their temporary sovereigns. 
Hence the woodlands and glens on the Apennine slopes, 
where their country was situated, were infested with 
banditti; and the inhabitants were embroiled in perpetual 
lawsuits before tribunals where little justice was to be 
obtained, or else at open variance with their own bands, 


determining right by might. To that dreary province, 
in such a hideous state of affairs, Ariosto was sent to 
redress grievances, restore quiet, and advance the semi- 
barbarians a step or two in civilisation. This task, 
on the face of it more fitted to the talents of an Orpheus 
or Amphion, than those of a modern minstrel ; unless, 
like the one, he was master of the lost art of teaching 
stones to build themselves into temples and palaces, or, 
like the other, could draw rocks and forests, with their 
population of lions and tigers, after him, by the en- 
chantment of his lyre, he seems to have accomplished 
with moderate success among a tribe already acquainted 
with his romantic poetry, and prepared to honour the 
author. Sir John Harrington says, that " he so orderly 
governed, and so well quieted," these riotous hordes by 
his wisdom and equity, that " he left them all in good 
peace and concord ; winning not only the love of the 
better sort, but also a wonderful reverence of the wilder 
people, and a great awe even in robbers and thieves." 
The latter phrase alludes to a story which has been dif- 
ferently told, but may be received as substantially true, 
of a rencontre which he had with some of his more 
uncouth neighbours. One day traversing a forest, ac- 
companied by five or six horsemen, the little party was 
startled by the appearance of a body of armed men 
breaking cover, and coming suddenly upon them ; these 
belonged to one of the gangs of brigands, which, under 
two audacious leaders Domenico 'Marotto and Phi- 
lippo Pachione divided the peace of the country be- 
tween them, allowing none to each other, and depriving 
every one else of it. The expected assailants, however, 
after curiously eying the governor and his train, per- 
mitted them to pass ; which his excellency was very 
willing to do, though, as chief magistrate, he had found 
a whole nest of outlaws. Having formerly signalised 
himself in the river fight with the Venetians, and there 
being no occasion to exercise any other than " the 
better part of valour discretion" in this affair, Ariosto 


felt his honour as safe as his life, in riding on without 
offering molestation where he experienced none. But 
the captain of the band,, being struck with his superior 
presence, demanded of the hindmost of his attendants 
what was his master's name. " Ludovico Ariosto," 
replied the other : whereupon, galloping up to him, the 
freebooter hailed the poet (who expected a very different 
salutation) with the most profound respect and courtesy, 
introducing himself as Philippo Pachione, and regretting 
that, from not having previously known his person, he 
and his troop had not- done due honour to him in pass- 
ing. He then launched out into vehement praises of 
the Ci Orlando Furioso" (a poem likely enough to be the 
delight of such adventurers), and with all humility and 
frankness offered his most devoted services to its author. 
Baretti's version of the anecdote is to the following 
effect : Ariosto one morning happened to take a walk 
in his night-gown and slippers beyond the castle where 
he resided, fell into a fit of thought, and forgot himself 
so much, that step after step he found himself, when he 
recovered, already far from home, and surrounded on a 
sudden by a troop of desperadoes ; who certainly would 
have ill used, and perhaps murdered him, had not his 
face been known by one of the gang, who, informing 
his comrades that it was signor Ariosto, the chief of 
the banditti addressed him with intrepid gallantry, and 
told him, that since his excellency was the author of 
" Orlando Furioso," he might be sure that none of his 
company would injure him, but would see him, on the 
contrary, safe to the castle. This they did, entertaining 
him all the way with the passages which they most 
admired in his poem." Ariosto himself seems to allude 
to some such circumstance in the Epistle to S. Male- 
guccio (Satire V.), written during his residence in Graf- 

" Saggio chi dal castel poco si scosta." 

" He 's wise who strays but little from the castle." 

Two of his epistolary Satires are dated from that 


province ; where he seems to have heen as little at 
home as Ovid in Pontus. In that first quoted, to 
Sigismondo Maleguccio, at the end of the first year of 
his honourahle exile, he says, 

" This is the earliest note, in all the time, 
Which I have warbled to the nymphs that guard 
The tree, whose leaves I once so long'd to wear : 
Such is the strangeness of the place to me, 
That I am like a bird, whose cage is changed, 
And many a day refrains his wonted song : 
My cousin, wonder not that I am mute ; 
The wonder 's greater that I 'm not dead with spleen 
Shut as I am, a hundred miles and more, 
By Alps and snow, and streams and woods, from her 
Who holds alone the reins of my affection." Satire V. 

Sancho Panza, in his island of Barataria, neither ad- 
ministered justice more wisely, nor was interrupted more 
provokingly in his personal indulgences, than Ariosto 
in his government of Graffagnana ; and, unfortunately 
for his comfort, the stronghold of Castelnuovo was not 
stormed at midnight hy some friendly enemy, nor him- 
self ejected by violence, to his heart's content. The 
poet's miserable reign lasted three long years ; while the 
squire of Don Quixote had the happiness to be relieved 
from the cares of state in less than as many days. How 
unfit for the management of a brute people he deemed 
himself, may be judged from the story with which he 
closes this epistle. 

" Methinks that I resemble the Venetian 
To whom the king of Portugal presented 
A noble steed of Mauritanian blood ; 
Who, to do justice to the royal gift, 
Nor once considering, that to turn a helm, 
And draw a bridle, are two different things, 
Mounted aloft, and with both hands held fast 
At at a rudder ; then in either flank 
Cast anchor with his spurs, and bravely mutter'd, 
' I '11 warrant ye don't fling me overboard.' 
The horse, thus handled, bolted off* full speed ; 
Whereat the gallant seaman pull'd the harder, 
And deeper struck the rowels sharp as spears. 
Till mouth and reins were tinged with blood and foam. 
The beast, not knowing which to obey the points 
That urged him on, or curb that held him back 
With a few desperate plunges rid himself 
Of his strange rider ; who, with shatter'd ribs, 
Crack'd collar-bone, head broken, all begrimed 
With mud and dirt, and pale with fright, crawl'd off 
In no good humour with his majesty, 

Q 3 


And, far away, bewail'd his horsemanship. 
Well had it been for him, and well for me, 
If for his charger he, I for my province, 
Had said, ' O king ! O duke ! I am not worthy 
Of such high honour ; graciously bestow 
Your bounty on some other.' " 

While he was here, M. Bonaventura Pistolfo, secretary 
to Alfonso, wrote to invite Ariosto to accept a third 
embassy to Rome ; not on a perilous and temporary 
errand, but to reside there as the representative of his 
sovereign, f( for a year or two," at the court of Cle- 
ment VII. The poet, however, had sagacity enough to 
decline putting himself again in the way of Fortune, 
where, instead of taking him by the hand, on former 
occasions, she had only splashed him with the mud from 
her wheel as it rolled through the streets, encumbered 
with aspiring asses in every stage of transmigration.* 
His correspondent having intimated that, besides com- 
plying with the duke's pleasure at Rome, he might stand 
a chance of obtaining great and fat preferments by favour 
of a member of the house of Medici, with which he had 
been so long and courteously acquainted, then filling ^the 
papal chair ; since it was more probable that he should 
catch, if he fished in a great river, than _in an ordinary 
stream; he thus replies, in the seventh Satire: 
" I thank you, that the desire is ever fresh with you to 
promote my interest, and to change me from a plough- 
ox into a Barbary steed. You might command me 
with fire and sword to serve the duke, not in Rome only, 
but in France, Spain, or India ; but if you would fain 
persuade me that honour and riches may be got in 
the way you propose, you must find a different bait, to 
lure your bird into that net. As for honour, I have 
already as much as my heart could wish : it is enough 
for me that, at home, I can see more then half a dozen 
of my neighbours doff their caps when they meet me, 
because they know that I sometimes sit at table with the 
duke, and obtain a trifling favour which I seek for 
myself or a friend. Then, if I have honour enough to 

* See the emblem already.'quoted from Satire VIL 


satisfy me, I should have abundance of wealth also ; 
and my desires, which sometimes wander, would he at 
rest, if I had just so much that I could live, and be at 
liberty, without having to ask any thing of any one : 
more than this I never hope to attain. But, since so 
many of my friends have had the power to do thus 
much for me, and I still remain in poverty and de- 
pendence^ I will not let her *, who was so backward to 
fly out of the box of the imprudent Epimeteus, to lead 
me by the muzzle like a buffalo." Towards the close 
of this epistle, he intimates that it is some unconfessed 
affection which draws him so tenderly and irresistibly 
towards his native nest; and adds " It is well for me 
that I can hide myself among these mountains, and that 
your eyes cannot run a hundred miles after me, to see 
whether my cheeks be pale or red at this acknow- 
ledgment. Certainly, if you saw my face at the moment I 
am writing, far away as I am, itywould appear to you as 
deeply crimsoned as that of the father canon was, when 
he let fall, in the market-place, the wine-flask which he 
had stolen from a brother, besides the two that he had 
drunk. If I were at your elbow, perhaps you would 
snatch up a cudgel to bastinado me, for alleging such a 
crazy reason why I wish not to live at a distance from 

The attachment insinuated in the enigmatical lines, 
of which the above is a prose version, is with equal 
ambiguity alluded to in the fourth Satire, addressed to 
Annibale Maleguccio, where, excusing himself from 
going abroad, on the ground that he preferred pursuing 
his studies at home, and confining his voyages and 
travels, though they extended all over the world, to the 
maps and charts of Ptolemy, he breaks off thus : " Me- 
thinks you smile and say, 'Neither the love of country nor 
study, but of a lady, is the cause why you will not move.' 
I frankly confess it : now shut your mouth ; for I will 

* Hope, that remained at the bottom of Pandora's fatal gift to the bro- 
ther of Prometheus. 

Q 4 


neither take up sword nor shield to defend a fib." 
This jest has been taken in earnest, though no man in 
his senses would swear on the word of a poet so 
uttered. Be that as it may, it is generally understood 
that his life was sufficiently dissolute to warrant his 
correspondent's suspicion ; and to require him, when so 
charged, to escape with a pleasantry, though it were 
accompanied by a blush. 

After three years, being released from the cares of his 
government, Ariosto returned, with entire devotion of 
his time and talents, to the " sacred college of the Muses;" 
perfecting his fc Orlando" by almost daily touches, the 
fruits of habitual meditation upon its multifarious sub- 
jects, to the last year of his life. He likewise revised 
several comedies written in his youth, turning them 
from prose into metre; and composing others. These 
.were so much admired, that they were often acted in 
the court of Alfonso ; persons of the highest rank repre- 
senting the characters. His earliest and his latest works, 
therefore, were dramatic, but certainly not his best : 
that, indeed, could not be expected ; theatrical per- 
formances being comparatively new in Italy, and, in 
general, exceedingly crude or exceedingly pedantic. 
It is said that Ariosto's plays are yet read with delight 
by his countrymen : the titles of them are, the 
" Menechini," borrowed from Plautus ; " La Cassaria," 
" I Suppositi," te La Lena," " II Negromante," and 
(( La Scholastica;" of which latter, his brother Gabriele 
furnished the concluding act, Ludovico having left it 
incomplete. A curious anecdote is told of him when a 
youth, which is characteristic at once of his phlegm and 
his acuteness in the practice of his art. His father, 
being displeased by some juvenile inadvertence, very 
severely reprimanded him in the presence of the rest of 
the family. Ludovico bore the infliction with perfect 
composure, neither expressing contrition, nor attempting 
to justify himself. When Nicolo had retired, his 
brother Gabriele remonstrated with him, both on the 
imputed fault, and his apparent insensibility of shame 


or rebuke. Thereupon the poet so promptly and effect- 
ually cleared his conduct, that his brother, in great 
astonishment, asked him why he had not given the 
same explanation of it to their father. " Because," 
said the young dramatist, " I was so busily thinking, all 
the while, how to make the best use of what my father 
said, in my new comedy, in which I have just such a 
scene of an old man scolding his boy, that in the ideal, 
I forgot the real incident." 

His sevenJSa tires were also composed during the latter 
years of his life ; but, on account of their irreverence 
towards high personages both in church and state, 
they were not published till a convenient time after his 
death. The*y are in the form of epistles ; and, in fact, 
were written as such, on real occasions, to the several 
friends addressed in them. These pieces allude so much 
to personal and family circumstances, that Ariosto's 
biographers are more indebted to them than to any other 
equally authentic source for their materials ; and it has 
been for the like reason, principally, that such copious 
extracts have been made from the same valuable docu- 
ments in the foregoing pages. In these remarkable 
effusions of spleen and pleasantry, there is nothing gaudy 
or superficial, to attract ordinary readers ; nothing 
forced or unnatural, to produce ostentatious effect. The 
thoughts are thick-sown ; the diction seems to be with- 
out effort (the result, no doubt, of consummate art), 
being pungent and simple, like the best style of con- 
versation, except when the subject, at rare intervals, 
becomes poetical when at once the swan of Castaly 
launches upon the stream, swells into beauty, and rows 
in gallant state till the water runs shallow again. There 
is none of the stern indignation of Juvenal, nor the 
harshness and obscurity of Persius, in these productions ; 
yet, lively, sarcastic, and urbane as they are, there is 
almost as little resemblance in them to those fine but 
high-toned compositions of Horace, which were, un- 
questionably, our author's models though less for imi- 
tation than for rivalry. Like every other species of 


literature which Ariosto tried, how much soever he may 
have adorned all, these bosom-communications to his 
intimate friends are not exempt from occasional ob- 
scenities, so repulsive -and abominable, that they cannot 
be commended and dismissed without this mark of 
infamy, which no merits can efface. 

Whether Ariosto, who, according to all accounts, and 
the lewdness of his writings, led no very chaste life, 
were married or not; and, if married, to whom; are 
questions which have puzzled his biographers, and are 
now of little moment to be settled : no proof of marriage 
would redeem his character, or purify his most beautiful 
poems from the moral defilement that cleaves to them. 
His Muse had the plague, and all her offspring are dis- 
eased. An author is not answerable to posterity for the 
evil of his mortal life, but for the profligacy of that life 
which he lives through after ages, contaminating by 
irrepressible and incurable infection the minds of mil- 
lions it may be, till the day of judgment, he is 
amenable even in his grave. It is not necessary to 
enter further into judgment with the offender before us 
in this place. 

Married, or not married, Ariosto had two sons, whom 
he not only openly avowed as such, but faithfully and 
affectionately educated them, according to his knowledge 
and views of what is good and honourable in society, 
for scholars and gentlemen, as he intended them to be. 
His epistle to cardinal Bembo (the sixth Satire) is highly 
creditable to his parental solicitude for the welfare of his 
children in this respect : indeed, he seems to have been 
exemplary in every relationship of life, except that 
which requires personal purity, a virtue little re- 
garded either by laymen or ecclesiastics in his day ; and, 
judging by the deeper taint of their writings, as well as 
the evidence of their lives, often held in less esteem by 
the latter than the former. 

Towards the close of the year 1532, Ariosto was 
seized with illness, brought on, it was said, by agitation, 
when the sumptuous theatre erected by the duke of 


Ferrara, for the exhibition of his comedies, was con- - 
sumed by fire ; or, as his physicians, with more proba- 
bility, conjectured, by indigestion, from the habit of * 
eating fast, and bolting his food almost unmasticated. 
Whatever might have been the cause, the disorder ter- 
minated in his death about the midsummer following. 

In the same year that he was thus mortally stricken, 
he had put his last hand to the " Orlando Furioso," and J 
left the poem in that form in which it appears, in forty- 
six cantos ; the five additional ones, which have always 
been deemed unworthy of such a connection, having 
been published for the first time in 1545, twelve years 
afterwards. Among what may be deemed the apocry- 
phal traditions concerning Ariosto, it has been affirmed 
and contradicted, with very questionable evidence on 
either side, that he received the laurel from the hands * 
of the emperor Charles V., in the city of Mantua, twelve 
months before his death. The very circumstance of a 
reasonable doubt being raised respecting a fact, which, 
if it had occurred, must have been known throughout 
all Italy, Germany, France, and Spain, seems almost 
sufficient to invalidate the story. One of his biogra- 
phers (Minchino) says, that when Ariosto felt the 
crown upon his brows, placed there by so august a per- 
sonage, he went beside himself for joy ; and ran about 
the streets as much out of his wits, for the time, as his 
own hero. It may be remarked, that nothing could 
have been more out of character than such extravagance 
in a person of Ariosto's temperament, who (whatever 
licence he granted to his Muse in his writings, or to 
his passions in secret), in public, always maintained a 
dignity and manliness of demeanour, which commanded -> 
respect, and showed that he never forgot his honourable 
birth, or waved the consciousness of intellectual supe- 
riority ; though he was careful that neither of these ad- 
vantages should encroach upon the jealous or vindictive 
sensibility of others. 

Ariosto in person was tall and strong-boned, but 
stooping a little, and slow in his gait as well as in all 


his motions. His countenance, judging from Titian's 
portrait, the lofty forehead a little bald, the black 
curled locks behind, and corresponding beard upon a 
jutting chin, the elevated brows above the dark bright 
eyes, the Roman nose, lips eloquently moulded, teeth 
<f passing even and white," thin cheeks, complexion 
slightly olive, long visage, well-proportioned neck, and 
shoulders square, his countenance, with features such 
as these, might altogether have been deemed the beau 
ideal which the first painter had conceived of the first 
poet of the age, had not contemporary testimonies as- 
sured us that the whole was not more happily than cor- 
rectly copied from the living model. 

There is little of tenderness, and less of stern sub- 
i limity, in any of his poems ; and yet it is uniformly 
affirmed that his aspect and manner were grave, melan- 
cholic, and contemplative, from habit, probably, more 
than from nature; for in company he was affable, and 
his conversation perculiarly captivating to women, whom, 
no doubt, he laid himself out to please, and with whom 
he was no small favourite. So far, also, as they could 
appreciate his merit, and endure that aristocracy of 
mind which pressed hard upon the heels of hereditary 
rank, or mushroom vanity raised from stercorarious 
heaps in ecclesiastical hotbeds, his society was courted 
by the greatest personages in church and state, in- 
cluding popes, cardinals, and sovereign princes. Un- 
assuming, but not indifferent to slights or wrongs from 
the highest with whom he was associated, he led, on 
the whole, a feverish life between resolute poverty and 
precarious dependence, with the continual temptation 
to rise to wealth by means which he abhorred, and for 
which he must have abhorred himself had he stooped 
to employ them. 

Of persons of the other sex, who, from time to time, 
caught his wandering affections, the names of two 
(whether real or disguised) have been preserved Alex- 
andra and Guenevra. It is understood that the former 
(to whom he may have been privately married) was 


the mother of his two sons, Giambattista, who devoted 
himself to a military life, and Virginio, who obtained 
distinction in literature. For the other lady, his pas- 
sion might be no more than a poetical one she being 
married, and a mother, in an honourable family of Flo- 
rence akin to his own. Finding her one day adorning a 
silk coat for one of her children, so as to resemble armour 
by the devices the ground silver, and the embroidery 
purple against a festival spectacle, at which the lad was 
to figure in it on Midsummer Eve, he was so inspired by 
the hand and the needle, that he celebrated their per- 
formance in the twenty-fourth book of the " Orlando 
Furioso ;" where, describing a wound, " not deep but 
long," received in combat with Mandricardo by Zer- 
bino, from which the blood trickled over his splendid 
panoply, the poet introduces the following admired but 
frigid simile : 

",Le lucide arme il caldo sangue irriga 
Per sino al pie de rubiconda riga. 

" Cosi talora un bel purpureo nastro 
Ho veduto partir tela d' argento, 
Da quella bianca man plu ch' alabastro, 
Da cui partire il cor spesso mi sen to." 

" The warm blood, with a crimson rivulet, 
Down to the foot his shining armour wet 

" So have I seen a beauteous purple zone 
Divide a web of silver, by the art 
Of that white hand, outvying Parian stone, 
Which oft I feel dividing "thus my heart" 

This is much more in the strain of fanciful passion- 
less ideality (like Petrarch's mistress, and his praises of 
her), than warm, ingenuous, honest love, " whose dwell- 
ing is the heart of man," and whose language is that of 
nature, which all may understand who ever knew affec- 
tion. In the same vein of ingenious artificial compli- 
ment and conceit (often, indeed, elegant and captivating 
to the mind at ease, and amusing itself with " love in 
idleness") are the Elegies, Sonnets, and Madrigals of 
Ariosto ; all calculated more to set off the beauties of 
his Muse than of his mistress ; and rather to command 
admiration of himself, than to do honour to her, whom, 
though a divinity in song, and adored with magnificent 


rites, he worships with nearly as little devotion as an 
idol deserves. Of the following sonnet (the nineteenth 
in the series), Paolo Rolli says, " non e stata mai scritta 
poesia piu sublime" ee poetry more sublime was never 
written." It would be hard to persuade any English- 
man of this. 

" Chiuso era il Sol da un tenebroso velo, 
Che si stendea fino all' estreme sponde 
Dell' orizonte, e mormorar le fronde 
S';udiano, e tuoni andar scorrendo il cielo. 
Di pioggia, in dubbio, o tempestoso gelo, 
Stav' io per gire oltre le torbid" onde 
Del fiume altier che il gran sepolcro asconde, 
Del figlio audace del Signer di Delo: 

" Quando apparir sull' altra ripa il lume 
De bei vostr' occhij vidi, e udij parole 
Che Leandro potean farmi quel giorno. 
E tutto a un tempo i nuvoli d' intorno 
Si dileguaro, e si scoperse il Sole, 
Tacquero i venti, e tranquillossi '1 fiume." 

" The sun was shrouded with a gloomy veil 
That reach'd the dim horizon's utmost bound, ' 
The forest leaves were heard to murmur round, 
And distant thunder peal'd along the gale. 
In doubt 1 stood, of rain or pelting hail, 
By the proud river, rapid and profound, 
Wherein Apollo's daring son was drown'd*, 
Afraid to dip the oar or hoist the sail : 

" When, from the farther bank, the light I saw 
Of your fair eyes, and heard a voice, of power 
To make Leander of me in that hour. 
At once the clouds their dark array withdraw, 
The sun brake forth, the rainbow climb'd the hill, 
The winds were silent, and the waters still" 

The foregoing version has been rendered as little 
paraphrastic as might be (though the eighth line is 
interpolated) ; but all rhymed translations from the 
Italian, in the same number of lines as the original, 
must be encumbered either with additional thought 
or verbiage our language being altogether more brief 
in syllabic composition. 

The society of Ariosto was courted by the learned and 
the polite ; not for his wit and intelligence only, but for 
the privilege of hearing his latest compositions, as they 
came warm from his mind, or were gradually wrought 
to perfection by that patient labour for which he was 

The Po, into which Phaeton was struck from the chariot of the Sun. ; 


distinguished, and to which he is indebted for as much 
of his glory as to the creative energy of his genius it- 
self. For when he had originated, by force of invention, 
his most admired performances, he never ceased to im- 
prove them afterwards by touches innumerable, exquisite, 
and undiscerned by ordinary eyes, till the art which 
effected the changes at length disappeared in its own 
consummation, and those seemed to be the first thoughts 
in the first words, which were really the last transmi- 
grations of the former through the latter. No poet of 
any age has more inseparably identified his conceptions 
with his language than Ariosto ; in fact, his ideas 
themselves are so vernacular, that they can scarcely be 
made to speak any other than their native tongue ; they 
defy translation. Nothing, indeed, can be easier than 
to render the literal meaning in dictionary terms ; yet 
nothing less resembling the original in all that constitutes 
its prime excellence grace, freedom, and simplicity 
can be imagined than these. Of the " Orlando Fu- 
rioso" there are three English versions : that by sir * 
John Harrington, in the reign of queen Elizabeth, is 
coarse, careless, and unfaithful ; that of Hpole, about 
fifty years ago, tame, diffuse, and prosaic ; the recent I 
one by W. S. Rose, esq., elegant, spirited, and probably j 
as true to the text as any readable paraphrase can be j 
under the difficulties aforementioned. 

While this magnificently wild and sportive work was 
in progress, and after its first publication, during the 
refining process through which it was continually pass- 
ing till the last year of his own life, the poet w r as ac- ~> 
customed to rea_d, at the courts of Hippolito and 
Alfonso, and in other favoured circles, the cantos as 
they were produced, revised, or had received their final 
polish. This accounts partly for the manner in which 
the hundredfold story is told, not as recorded in * 
a book, but as delivered spontaneously before princes 
and prelates, scholars and gentry, assembled to listen 
to the marvellous adventures of knights and ladies, 
giants and enchanters, from the lips of the gifted nar- 


rator. Ariosto excelled in the practice of reading aloud, 
whether the subjects were his own, or those of his illus- 
trious predecessors or contemporaries; to which his 
melodious voice, distinct utterance, and versatile spirit 
gave peculiar emphasis and animation. This accom- 
plishment was of great value after the revival of letters, 
when books were scarce, and authors depended, for pecu- 
niary recompence, more upon the gratuities of patrons, 
than upon honourable profits from extensive sales of their 
writings. But though he was thus master of the rarest 
art of speech, good reading, especially of verse, being 
seldomer attained (perhaps because it is less duly ap- 
preciated) than eloquent declamation, he was never 
forward either to begin, by obtruding it upon his friends 
for his own gratification, nor slow to leave off when he 
had wearied himself for others. As his ear was nice, 
and his taste pure in this respect, he was proportionately 
offended by indifferent, vulgar, or boisterous recitation. 
The story is told of him, that one day, passing a potter's 
shop,~TTe heard the unlettered artisan singing, in harsh 
and ill-accented numbers, a stave of the " Orlando." 
According to sir John Harrington, it was the thirty- 
second in the first canto *, and this will do as well 
as any other in a questionable tale, in which Rinaldo 
tries to catch his horse, with as little success as many a 
groom and gentleman has done before and since. The 
poet, as little able to keep his temper as his hero on the 

" Non molto va Rinaldo, che si vede 
Saltar innanzi il suo destrier feroce : 
' Ferma, Bajardo mio, deh ! ferine il piede ; 
Che 1* esser senza te troppo mi noce.' 
Per q ues to il destrier sordo a lui non riede, 
Anzi piu se ne va sempre veloce ; 
Segue Rinaldo, e d' ira si distrugge : 

Ma sequitiamo Angelica, che fugge." 

" Not far hath gone Rinaldo, ere he spies 
His fiery steed before him, bounding free : 
' Stay, my Bayardo ! prythee stay,' he cries ; 
' For much am I annoy'd for lack of thee.' 
Yet the deaf horse returns not, nor replies, 
Save with his heels that swift and swifter flee. 
Rinaldo follows, fuming in the race, 

But we must give the flying lady chase." 


occasion, rushed among the crockery, smashing now 
one piece, then another, on the right hand and on the 
left, with his walking-stick. The potter, half para- 
lised and half frantic, hastily, yet hesitatingly, enquired 
why the gentleman should thus injure a poor fellow 
who had done him no harm? "No harm, man?" 
replied the enraged author, " I am scarcely even with 
thee yet : I have cracked three or four wretched jugs of 
thine, not worth a groat, and thou hast heen mangling 
and murdering a stanza of mine worth a mark of gold ! " 
Unluckily for the credit of this sally of professional * 
petulance, the same anecdote has been told of Camoens, 
the Portuguese, who lived half a century later; and 
something like it of Philoxenus, who lived nearly 2000 
years earlier. Yet the tradition concerning Ariosto ^ 
may be true; who, remembering the classic precedent, 
might choose to follow it in a case where no redress 
could be looked for, except from taking the law into his 
own hands. At the worst, such an outrage must have 
been a piece of caustic pleasantry ; and it may be taken 
for granted, that the sufferer was well compensated for 
having afforded the poet no very disagreeable opportunity 
of indulging his humour ; since, however the learned J 
may pretend to despise the opinions of the multitude, 
there is scarcely any proof of fame more flattering to 
the proudest aspirant, than a cross-wind of popular ap- 
plause. Cervantes, who well understood the secrets of 
a poet's breast, goes farther, and, with consummate 
propriety, makes the student, whose verses had been 
commended to the skies by Don Quixote, say within > 
himself, " How sweet is praise, even from the lips 
of a madman ! " 

Of Ariosto's personal habits, some whimsical pecu- 
liarities have been mentioned, not 'worth repeating, 
except to gratify the very natural curiosity call it 
impertinent who will which most readers feel to learn 
all that they can about a favourite author. He himself 
confesses that he could scarcely distinguish the different 

VOL. I. R 


kinds of food ; and it has been already seen that he 
was in the practice of eating voraciously. A friend, 
who had invited him to an entertainment for the diver- 
sion of the company, ordered a roasted kite to be palmed 
upon him for a partridge. By the blunder of a servant, 
the carrion was set before a nicer guest, who smelled the 
joke, if he did not relish it, and the poet escaped the 
savoury snare. A stranger, calling upon him once when 
he had just sat down to dinner, Ariosto eagerly ate up 
all the " short commons" which had been provided, 
while the other was entertaining him with most excel- 
lent discourse. Being afterwards reproved by his bro- 
ther for lack of hospitality, he coolly replied, <e The 
loss was the gentleman's own ; he should have taken 
care of himself." His rudeness and hurry at table were 
attributed principally to fits of rumination or absence of 
mind ; and if he sometimes over-satisfied his appetite, 
he did not usually indulge it with more than one meal 
a day. 

Quite in consonance with the poet's reveries were his 
raptures of execution. After wandering in a day-dream 
of thought, he would suddenly sit down and disburthen 
his overcharged brain with effusions of song, that seemed 
as spontaneous as spring showers that fall in gusts 
through broad sunshine, though they have been long 
collecting in the zenith ; or, he would start from (f a 
brown study" at midnight, and call upon his servant 
Gianni to bring pen, ink, and paper immediately, that 
he might fix, before they vanished for ever, the imagin- 
ations which had charmed him in his trance. The 
" Orlando" thus appeared to come to him, canto by 
canto, as the Koran to Mahomet ; and no doubt the one 
was as truly inspired as the other. His early reading 
had so filled and fertilised his mind, that he subsisted in 
thought almost exclusively on the inexhaustible harvests 
perpetually produced from the remembrances of that ; 
and in his latter years was so indolent, or so indifferent 
a searcher of the writings of others, that he frequently 
passed weeks without turning over the pages of any 


except his own, in which, like the spider, he seemed 
to have a personal existence ; so diffusing himself 
through them, that it might he said of him, that, 
not with a touch only, " exquisitely fine," he could 
" feel the whole thread," but also " live along the line." 

In his last hours, he is represented as maintaining 
his philosophical tranquillity, neither affecting stoical 
sternness, nor the hideous jocularity of some, who, to 
hide their misgivings, die " as a fool dieth." He pro- 
fessed to leave the world without much regret having J 
never, indeed, been very well satisfied with his portion 
in it ; and, believing that in a future state men would 
know each other, he observed, that he should be happy 
to meet many whom he loved, and who had gone before / 
him. How content to die in the dark are men of the 
highest faculties, and otherwise of the most inquisitive / 
minds, who have never known, or who have rejected, 
the truth of that Gospel by which life and immortality 
were brought to light ! 

As might be expected on the demise of one so cele- 
brated for genius, sonnets, elegies, and epitaphs in 
abundance were composed and published to his honour. 
His body was buried in the church of the Benedictines * 
at Ferrara, when the monks of that order, contrary to 
their usual reserve, accompanied the funeral procession : 
a plain slab of marble being laid over the grave, was 
presently over-run with Greek, Latin, and Italian verses, 
as the natural products of so poetical a spot. His son 
Virginio afterwards prepared a chapel and sepulchre * 
for his parent, in the garden of the house which he had 
himself built, and where he had spent many of his last 
and happiest days. But the good fathers had such re- -/ 
verence for the relics of a poet, who certainly was any 
thing rather than a saint, and whom no pope would ca- 
nonise, that they would not allow their removal. In pro- 
cess of time, Agostino Mosti, a man of letters, who in 
early life was a disciple of the deceased, seeing no me- 
morial worthy of his master's fame erected, at his own 
R 2 


expense caused a tablet (worthy at least of himself) to he 
placed in the aforesaid church of the Benedictines, with 
a bust upon the tomb beneath, and a Latin inscription by 
Lorenzo Fiesoli. A monument more superb was erected, 
nearly a century later, by Ludovico his grand-nephew, 
bearing also a Latin inscription. Neither of these, nor 
even that which the poet composed in ' the same lan- 
guage for himself, need be inserted here ; the two former 
being in the common-place style of posthumous pa- 
negyric, and the latter quaint and puerile, though of 
sufficient significance to have been imitated by Pope, 
with reckless profaneness, in the ribald lines which he 
wrote for himself. 

" Under this stone, or under this sill," &c. 

The house which he built (as formerly mentioned), 
with its humble inscription, is yet shown as a monument 
more interesting to the eye of the enthusiastic admirer 
of the poet, than any marble efftgies, however gor- 
geously or exquisitely wrought, could be : it brings the 
spectator into personal contact with himself, by local 
and domestic association. But in this respect, the chair 
in which he was wont to meditate ; and the inkstand 
from which he filled his pen to disburthen his thoughts, 
when they flowed, as they did at times, like the juice of 
full ripe grapes from their own pressure, if these relics 
are genuine, must^be incomparably the most touching 
and inspiring memorials of his life and his labours. 

Of Ariosto's grand performance, it would be vain to 
sketch the outline, or enter into formal criticism here : 
sufficient indications of the present biographer's estimate 
of the author's powers and style of composition have 
been already given. It would be idle and hopeless to 
censure or carp at particulars, where little can be com- 
mended beyond the talent with which a web of wonders 
and horrors (the easiest and cheapest products of inven- 
tion) has been so skilfully woven into poetical tapestry, 
as not only to invest the most preposterous fictions with 
the vividness of reality, but to charm or conciliate 


readers of all classes, from those of the severest taste to 
those most akin to mere animal appetite ; disarming the 
indignation of the former by exquisite playfulness,, and 
transporting the latter by that marvellous intrepidity of 
fibbing to which many a minstrel and romancer was 
formerly indebted for his popularity. The fact is, that 
though, with inimitable gravity, Ariosto tells story after 
story (or rather story within story), deserving no better 
appellation than that which his patron Hippolito be- 
stowed upon his fictions iwhen he asked, " Messer Lu- 
dovico, dove avete cogliate tante coglionere ? " " Where, 
master Ludovico, have you picked up so many fool- 
eries ? " yet Cervantes himself had not a keener sense of 
ridicule, nor in his happiest sallies was he more expert 
in humour or irony, than this "prince of liars," as 
the curate in "Don Quixote" designates a certain tra- 
veller. He describes, indeed, every scene, event, and 
character throughout his world of nonentities, as they 
might have been described, had they been actual and not 
imaginary : yet it is frequently manifest, that, while he 
appears to be writing romance, he is composing satire; 
and though he delights in prodigies for their own sake, 
yet, wherever they exceed the probable of the marvellous, 
he is not only alive to their absurdity, but rejoices to 
expose it, and turn extravagance itself into pleasantry. 

In canto xxvi., Rinaldo, Richiardetto, and Ruggiero, 
assisted by Marphisa (whom, in her martial accoutre- 
ments, they do not perceive to be a woman of war), 
massacre, without let or hindrance, two bodies of Moors 
and Maganzes, whom they surprise at market together. 
This, in plain prose, is the style in which the butchery 
is described: tf Marphisa, as she fought by their side, 
often turned her eyes towards her companions in arms ; 
and witnessing with wonder their rival achievements, 
she extolled them all in turn : but the stupendous 
prowess of Ruggiero, especially, appeared to her without 
example in the world ; so that she was ready to imagine 
him Mars, who had descended from the fifth heaven to 
B 3 


that quarter. She beheld his terrible strokes ; she beheld 
them falling never in vain : it seemed as though, against 
Balisarda (his sword), iron was paper, and not hard 
metal ; for it split helmets and strong cuirasses ; it cleft 
riders down to their saddles, throwing one half of the 
man on the right hand, the other on the left ; and not 
stopping there, the same blow slew the horse with his lord. 
Heads from their shoulders it hurled into the air, and 
often cut sheer the trunk from the loins ; five, and even 
more, with one motion it sometimes despatched; and if I 
did not fear that truth would not find credit, but be taken 
for a lie, I could tell greater things : it is, therefore, 
expedient rather to tell less than I might. The good 
archbishop Turpin, who knows very well that he speaks 
the truth, and leaves every one to believe it or not as 
he pleases, relates such marvellous feats of Ruggiero, 
that, hearing them repeated, you would say they were 
falsehoods. Before Marphisa, every warrior seemed to 
be ice, and she consuming flame : nor did she less at- 
tract the eyes of Ruggiero towards herself, than he had 
won hers to him ; and if she deemed him to be Mars, 
he might have thought her to be Bellona, had he as 
well known her to be a lady as her appearance indicated 
the contrary. Perhaps the emulation then begotten 
between them, was no good thing for those miserable 
people, on whose flesh, blood, bones, and sinews, proof 
was made how much each could do." 

Now, what sympathy can be felt in such unequal 
conflicts? No more, verily, than with the fate and 
fortunes of the elephants and castles, the kings, queens, 
bishops, knights, and commonalty on a chess-board, in 
a game between an adept and a novice, which is up in 
a few moments, neither exalting the winner nor dis- 
paraging the loser, nor affecting life, limb, character, or 
feeling in regard to one of the puppets employed in the 
play. Of the same class are all the combats between 
invulnerable heroes, and those who wield weapons of 
enchantment : the irresistible spear of Bradamante, that 
unhorsed every antagonist. whom it touched ; the magic 


horn of Astolpho, that routed armies with a blast ; Rug- 
giero's veiled shield, the dazzling splendour of which, 
when suddenly disclosed, struck with blindness and 
astonishment all eyes that beheld it. Of the latter, the 
author himself grows weary or ashamed, and makes his 
hero so too ; though, with remarkable dexterity, he turns 
into a glorious act of heroic virtue, the voluntary riddance 
of it by the indignant Ruggiero, who throws it into a 
hidden well, in a nameless forest in an undiscovered 
land, after having won too cheap a victory by its acci- 
dental exposure. In these two instances (and many 
others might be quoted), Ariosto laughs at his own -J 
extravagances, with as much pleasantry as Cervantes 
himself at those of others : and it may, perhaps, be 
affirmed that he does it with more tact and good sense , 
for it must be acknowledged that few outrages upon 
nature in the tales of chivalry, which the Spaniard 
justly ridicules, are felt by the reader to be more im- 
probable than the crazy imitations of them by the knight 
of La Mancha, whose pranks could only be attempted 
by one absolutely insane, and therefore were as little a fair 
mark for satire as for censure. Ariosto has this advan- J 
tage over Cervantes, that whatever is great, glorious, 
oTTdrmrable in romance, he can seriously set forth in 
all the pomp and eloquence of verse of the highest 
species ; while whatever is mean, farcical, or monstrous, 
he can exhibit in strains of facetiousness, at once as 
grave and as poignant as those in which the celebrated 
assault on the windmills, the rout of the sheep, or the 
gross sensuality of Sancho Panza, are given, without 
descending into caricature ; though no small portion of 
his whole poem belongs to the grotesque, and happily 
the plan admits of every variety of style from Homer to 

Neither the dulness nor the licence of allegory can 
be pleaded in extenuation of those unnatural circum- 
stances, in which absurdity is at once exemplified and 
ridiculed, as though the caprice of genius delighted as 
B 4 


much in the offence against taste as in the castigation of 
it. Allegorical, indeed, some of his fancies notoriously 
are ; but those who have attempted to " moralise" the 
" fierce wars and faithful loves" of his song, as many 
have done (and few more egregiously than sir John 
Harrington, in the quaint essay annexed to his bar- 
barous translation), might have employed their time 
as profitably in raking moonshine out of water, which 
flies off into millions of sparkles the moment it is dis- 
turbed, but is no sooner let alone than it subsides into 
the quiet and beautiful image of the orb above, which 
it showed before. It cannot be said of Ariosto, as 
Addison, in a miserable couplet, says of Spenser 

" His long-spun allegories tiresome grow, 
While the dull moral lies too plain below." 

The moral may be there, but it would require a diviner's 
rod to detect its presence, and the skill of him who set 
himself to extract sunbeams from cucumbers, to draw it 

The " Orlando Furioso" of Ariosto is a continuation 

J of the " Orlando Innamorato" of Boiardo, lord of Scan- 
diana, his contemporary, but elder, the latter having 
died in the year 1494. The relative circumstances of 
the two poems form one of the most curious chapters in 
the history of literature. Boiardo's work, in the ori- 

J ginal, is comparatively little known, and less read, even 
in Italy ; but it has been made famous throughout the 
world, by having given birth to its more illustrious suc- 
cessor. Whatever were the defects of the one author, 
or the excellences of the other, Ariosto was undoubtedly 
indebted to his forerunner, not only for many of the 
most powerful and captivating fictions of his poem, but 
for its intelligibility and popularity from the beginning. 

? The latter was an immense advantage : half of the suc- 
cess in a race depends upon a good start ; the eagle 
himself cannot rise from flat ground as from the rock, 
whence he launches at once into mid-air. By the 
" Morgante Maggiore" of Pulci, the legends and songs of 


the Provencals, and the pretended chronicle of arch- 
bishop Turpin, the public mind had been familiarised 
with the traditions concerning Arthur and his knights 
of the round table ; of Merlin the British enchanter, 
and the Lady of the Lake ; and of Charlemagne and 
his peers. Yet it was the intense interest and curiosity 
excited by Boiardo's magnificent but uncompleted plot, - 
which (so far as the principal personages are concerned), 

" The story of a bear and fiddle, 

Begins, but breaks off in the middle" 

it was these which had prepared the eager and delighted 
multitude of readers, or rather listeners, for any sequel 
to his ec tales of wonder," which should keep up the 
spirit of the original, and bring it to a crowning con- 
clusion. These, therefore, with transport proportioned 
to their surprise, hailed the appearance of Ariosto's 
production, when, after having been long promised, 
they found that it not only exceeded their expectations, 
but eclipsed in splendour, beauty, and variety, the pro- 
totype itself. This was so remarkably the case, that 
one of the wittiest and most ingenious of his contem- ^ 
poraries recomposed the whole of Boiardo's poem ; 
imitating, with farcical extravagance, the fine raillery and 
unapproachable humour of Ariosto ; and falling in the 
same ratio beneath him in elegance, majesty, and grace, 
when the themes admitted or required adornment. 
Thus, by an unexampled fatality, the " Orlando In- 
namorato" was outshone by a sequel, and superseded 
by a rifacimento (we have no English word to ex- 
press the renovating process). Authors themselves have 
almost universally failed in second parts to their most 
successful performances ; and as rarely have they re- 
written such works, so as to take place of the first form 
in which they obtained public favour* ; yet here, on 

* Witness the total miscarriage of Tasso, in his " Gerusalemme Con- 
quistata," as an improvement upon the " Gerusalemme Liberata ;" and of 
Akenside, in his philosophic revision of the "Pleasures of Imagin- 


the one hand, is a second part, by an imitator, that leaves 
the original in obscurity, yet covers it with glory 
like Butler's description of die moon's veil 

" Mysterious veil ! of brightness made, 
At once her lustre and her shade ; " 

while, on the other hand, we have the example of a new 
gloss of that original, by a meddler becoming the sub- 
stitute for it, like the new skin of a serpent when the 
old slough is cast aside. 

The mischances of Boiardo's poem ended not here. 
It was not published during the author's life, except 
by oral communication among his friends ; what he had 
composed, had not received the corrections due to its 
worth and his own talents ; and the work itself being 
left imperfect at the ninth canto, one Nicolo degli 
Agostini took up the strain there, and added so much 
matter as brought the various subjects involved in it to 
a consistent termination. A fourth experiment was 
made upon this polypus production, which multiplied 
its vitality the more, the more it was mangled. Ludo- 
vico Dominici recomposed the whole, and printed the 
^metamorphosis at Venice in 1545 : of this, several 
editions appeared ; but it neither supplanted Berni's, nor 
even rivalled the original in popularity. Thus the love 
and madness of Orlando was conceived, and partly 
executed, by one mind ; continued to a certain point by 
another ; new-modelled and incorporated w v ith his own 
inventions by a third ; re-written by a fourth ; but, above 
all, imitated, completed, and excelled by a fifth. 

The felicity of fortune which distinguished Ariosto's 
poem, was not less rare than the eccentric transmigra- 
tions to which Boiardo's was condemned. The Cf Or- 
lando Furioso" was both an imitation and a sequel of 
the " Orlando Innamorato ; " yet, contrary to all prece- 
dent, and without example in subsequent literature, the 
imitation surpassed the original, and the sequel the 
first draught. It was the offspring of one mind; it 
was produced entire by the inventor, and never altered 


by any hand but his own. Yet, after its first com- 
pletion, it underwent a process of revisal nearly as long 
and laborious as that of composition ; like a bird, it 
arrived not at the perfection of its song, or the full 
glory of its plumage, in the breeding season, nor till 
after its first moulting. It is strange, that, with all 
these advantages, there should still remain several glaring 
inconsistencies, which one hour's pains would have re- 
moved, had the author been aware of what any ordinary 
reader might detect. < 

The poem consists of the contemporaneous adventures 
of many knights, ladies, and other personages, travelling 
in all lands, known and unknown, of the old continent, 
the moon, hell, and purgatory ; those of each individual, 
in fact,' forming a distinct story, begun, dropped, re- 
newed, or concluded according to the pleasure of the 
narrator, who excites and keeps up, by every species of 
provoking artifice, the tortured yet unwearying curiosity 
of his hearers. And these materials, anomalous as they 
may seem, and as they are, he moulds and mixes with 
inimitable skill, and bodies them forth, as by magic, 
into such captivating forms, by varying, interweaving, 
disentangling, and cutting short the numberless threads 
of his many-coloured web, that he fails not to produce 
a present effect in every passage, with little recollection 
on the reader's part of its agreement with the past, 
as little regard to its connection with any thing but it- 
self, and no care whatever about its future influence on 
the issue of the whole. The fable is a hydra, of which 
the Orlando, whose name it bears, is only one of the 
heads ; and no otherwise entitled to pre-eminence, than 
as the hero of some of the most stupendous, amusing, 
and puerile events in a series not less heterogeneous or 
tragi-comic than the changes and chances of a holiday 
pantomime. It cannot be denied that the poem has 
a beginning and an end, with a prodigious quantity of 
action between, as the succession of pages, and the num- 
ber of cantos, evince ; but to prove that it has a necessary 
beginning, a decided progress, and a satisfactory end, 


would be a task which the author himself would have 
laughed to see a critic employed upon. 

A hundred rivers springing from one well-head upon 
a mountain-top above the clouds ; descending, as the 
slope broadens, in as many directions ; and varying to- 
wards the lowlands with such sinuosities, that whoever 
traces one stream, will find it suddenly . disappearing 
under ground ; another emerging at that very point, 
traversing the surface in a contrary direction for a 
while, then dipping in like manner ; while a third, a 
fourth, a fifth, and onward to the hundredth, in succes- 
sion, do the same ; each, in the track of the untiring 
explorer, showing itself and vanishing again and again, 
till utterly lost ; such are the vagaries of this romance 
of imagination, yet conducted in such organised confu- 
sion, that the mind is bewildered but for a moment, 
when a fresh ee change comes o'er the spirit of the 
(poet's) dream," and the reader is absorbed, borne 
away, and contented to float along the tide of the tale, 
unfinished before, then newly taken up, and never 
flagging in interest, nor eventually impaired by all its 
abrupt discontinuances. 

Incoherent, however, as the whole tissue of this and 
every other romance of chivalry must be, there is a 
moral interest in such fables, that lies deeper than any 
affected allegory, or the innocent gratification which 
marvellous stories will ever supply to human minds, 
loving and grasping at whatever is beyond their reach ; 
an appetite for the great, the glorious, and the unknown, 
which intimates their spiritual nature, and their im- 
mortal destiny, by desires towards things out of the 
body, independent of the material universe, and con- 
trary to the results of ordinary experience. These 
fictions, notwithstanding their unnatural and impossible 
details, picture real manners, characters, and events, 
such as were peculiar to the transition-age of modern 
society, in the most civilised regions of the Old World, 
when the blood of Goths and Vandals from the north, 
Greeks and Romans from the south of Europe, Moors 

AR10STO. 253 

from the west of Africa, and Arabs from the east of 
Asia, mingled in confluent streams round the shores of the 
Mediterranean ; when, often engaging in war, commerce, 
or political alliances, they gradually associated their 
races, and originated new nations according to their 
respective localities. Hence the superstitions, customs., 
languages, and habits of life among the most heteroge- 
neous tribes, bordering on the fallen empire of the Cae- 
sars (their common prey), were engrafted upon those of 
the refined and intellectual people whom luxury had 
effeminated and prepared for subjugation by more en- 
terprising and energetic, though at best but semi-bar- 
barian, conquerors. Hence we frequently find, in chi- 
valrous records, the most gross and incongruous stories 
of Oriental, African, or Scandinavian growth, allied to 
archetypes in classical mythology, or derived from an- 
cient history ; and only modified, enriched, distorted, 
or aggravated in grandeur, complexity, or terrible 
beauty, by those who adopted them, the rhymers 
and romancers, even in the rudest periods, blending 
all together, or borrowing from each, according to 
their fancy. There is scarcely an image, a monster, 
or an incident in all their raving chronicles wild 
as the dreams of lunatics, or beautiful as those of in- 
fants are supposed to be which cannot be traced to 
Homer, Virgil, Ovid, Lucan, or Statius ; so narrow is 
the range of human invention ; and so inextricably con- 
nected with what we have heard, and read, and seen, 
are all the imaginations or the thoughts of the heart of 
the most original genius. 

But the champions and the damsels, the giants and 
enchanters, nay, the dragons, the hippogriffs, and the 
demons themselves, in these legends, are but poetical 
representations of real classes and characters in society, 
such as existed, or were formed by the circumstances 
of the times, when war was the business, and gallantry 
the pastime of life, among the hybrid populations both 
of Christian and Mohammedan countries. The actors in 
the dramas of romance were, indeed, masked and buskined 


to raise them to heroic stature ; yet the most disguised of 
these personages, in principle., passion, taste, and pur- 
suit, were real men and women, magnified into mon- 
sters, like flies and spiders when looked upon through 
the eye-glass of a microscope. Orlando was but an 
exaggeration of the chevalier Bayard, as was the British 
Arthur of the English Richard, and Charlemagne him- 
self of Francis I. 

Ariosto, in following the fashion of contemporaries, 
lighted upon a theme to which his wayward and ver- 
satile genius was peculiarly adapted, and which gave it 
an opportunity of displaying all its peculiarities to the 
utmost advantage. Of these, the most enviable and 
least imitable is that perfection of art, which he 
perhaps possessed beyond every other writer, to say 
things naturally. All his wonders and prodigies are 
made so easy and probable, that to the most fastidious 
reader, who does not resolutely resist the spell of the 
poet, and deprive himself of the pleasure of being be- 
guiled by it, they appear as they would do if they 
were actual events, from the daylight effect of his truth- 
telling style ; for whenever his delight in the extra- 
vagant carries him beyond the legitimately marvellous, 
he disarms resentment, and prevents the laugh against 
himself by a quiet pleasantry, becoming himself the 
Cervantes of his own Quixotes. Satirists, however, 
have done little to improve mankind : they have con- 
demned and promoted vice ; they have ridiculed and 
recommended folly. Instead of being the most chaste, 
severe, and instructive, it is notorious that (with few 
exceptions) they have been the most profligate, perni- 
cious, and corrupting of all writers. Many of the most 
illustrious deserve to be crowned and decapitated, and 
their laurelled heads fixed on poles round the heights of 
Parnassus, as warnings to others, while they affect to 
expose sin, not to betray virtue ; and while they de- 
claim against lewdness, not to become panders to de- 
bauch the young, the innocent, and the unsuspecting. 
To go no farther than the example before us. If ever 


man deserved poetical honours, Ariosto did; and if 
ever poet deserved the curse of posterity for the prosti- 
tution of high talents, Ariosto does. Without pre- 
suming to judge him, even for his worst offences, 
beyond the present world, it had been better for many 
of his readers, why should we not say, at once, for all 
of them ? that he had never been born. Whatever 
be her beauty, his Muse has a cancerous sore upon her 
face, which cannot be looked upon without loathing by 
any eye, not wilfully blind, where it ought to be eagle- 




THERE is no more delightful literary task than the 
justify ing a hero or writer, who has been misrepresented 
and reviled ; but such is human nature, or such is the 
small progress that we have made in the knowledge of 
it, that in most instances we excuse, rather than excul- 
pate, and display doubts instead of bringing forward 
certainties. Machiavelli has been the object of much 
argument, founded on the motives that impelled him to 
write his celebrated treatise of the <e Prince/' which he 
declares to be a manual for sovereigns, and Rousseau 
has named the manual of republicans. The question 
of whether he sat down in cold blood, and as approving 
them, or whether he wrote in irony, the detestable 
maxims he boldly and explicitly urges, has been dis- 
puted by many. Voltaire has joined in the cry against 
him, begun by our countryman cardinal Pole. It is a 
curious question, to be determined only by the author 
himself. We must seek in the actions of his life, and 
in his letters, for a solution of the mystery. Ample ma- 
terials are afforded, and if we are unable to throw a 
clear light on the subject, at least we shall adduce all 
the evidence, and, after summing it up impartially, leave 
the jury of readers to decide. 

The family of Machiavelli carried back its origin to 
the ancient marquesses of Tuscany, and especially to a 
marquis Ugo, who flourished about the year 850, who 
was the root whence sprung various nobles, who pos- 
sessed power over territories, which the growing state 
of Florence speedily encroached upon. The Machia- 
velli were lords of Montespertoli ; but preferring the 
rank of citizens of a prosperous city, to the unprofitable 
preservation of an illustrious ancestry, they submitted 


to the laws of Florence, for the sake of enjoying the 
honours which the republic had to bestow. The Ma- 
chiavelli belonged to that portion of the Guelph party 
which abandoned their native town in 1260, after the 
defeat of Monteaperti. Being afterwards re-estab- 
lished in their country, they enjoyed thirteen times the 
rank of gonfaloniere of justice, an office corresponding 
to the better known one of doge, except that it was an 
annual magistrature ; and fifty-three different members 
of the family were elected priors, another of the highest 
offices of government. 

Niccolo Machiavelli was born in Florence on the 3d 1469. 
of May, 1469; his father was jurisconsult and treasurer 
of the march, and by aid of these offices, maintained in 
some degree the lustre of his family, which was ob- 
scured by the poverty into which it had fallen. His 
mother Bartolomea, daughter of Stefano Nelli, was 
equally well descended. Her family derived itself from 
the ancient counts of Borgonuovo of Fucecchio, who 
flourished in the tenth century, and her ancestors had 
been elected to the highest offices in the Florentine state. 
She had been previously married to Niccolo Benizzi, 
and was distinguished for her cultivated understanding 
and talent for poetry. 

Nothing is known of the childhood and education of 
Machiavelli. Paul Jovius wishes to prove that he 
scarcely understood Latin, but this opinion finds no 
credit : Paul Jovius is a writer, whose celebrity is 
founded on his unblushing falsehoods and baseless ca- 
lumnies * : he was sold to the Medici, and attacked 
without scruple, and with a total disregard for truth, 
those persons who were inimical to them. At the age 1494. 
of five and twenty, Machiavelli was placed as secretary ^Etat. 
under Marcello di Virgilio de' Adriani, or, as he is com- 25. 
monly called, Marcellus Virgil, whose pupil he had for- 
merly been. Marcellus Virgil had been at one time 

* Baldclli 
VOL. I. S 


professor of Latin and Greek, and was now one of the 
chief officers of the Florentine court of chancery. Paul 
Jovius gives Machiavelli the name of his clerk and 
copyist, and adds, that, from this master, he obtained 
those flowers of ancient learning which are interspersed 
in his works. Nothing is at once more base and futile 
than these attempts to degrade celebrated men, by im- 
peaching their station in society, or adventitious ac- 
quirements. It only serves to display the detractor's 
malice, and to render more conspicuous the merit which 
could triumph over every disadvantage. 

There is no trace of Machiavelli's taking any part in 
the political disturbances of Florence at this time. The 
city was then agitated by the pretensions and turbulence 
of the prophet Salvanorola. There is a letter extant of his, 
which gives some account of the preaching and denuncia- 
tions of the ambitious friar, which shows that, if he did 
not belong to the party opposed to him, he was, at least, 
not duped by his impostures * : " In my opinion," 
he says, " he temporises and gives to his falsehoods the 
Mar. colour of the occasion." -The disposition of Machia- 
8. velli was observing and industrious ; his ambition was 
1497. un der the rule of judgment, and his hopes fixed on 
"^ the favour he might secure from the heads of govern- 
ment. For five of the best years of his life he was 
content to exercise the unostentatious functions of se- 
cretary to an officer of chancery, nor were any of his 
writings composed at this period : they were the fruits 
of thought and experience, and there is nothing to tell 
us, that, as a young man, he was warmed by that self- 
confidence and restless aspiration, which he displayed 
in maturer life. It may be supposed, however, that 
his employer, Marcellus Virgil, distinguished his talents 
and recommended them to observation, as they were 
both promoted at the same time, Marcellus being elected 
high chancellor, and Machiavelli preferred over four 
other candidates, to the post of chancellor of the second 

* Let Fam. it 


court. A month afterwards he was*named secretary to 1498 

the council of ten (the chief council of the state), which 
situation he retained till the revolution, which, four- " 
teen years afterwards, overthrew the government he 

During this period, Machiavelli pursued an active 
career : he was continually employed on missions to 
various sovereigns and states. His letters to his 
government on these occasions are published, and he 
wrote besides brief surveys of the countries to which he 
was sent. His active and enquiring mind was conti- 
nually on the alert, and he stored up with care the ob- 
servations and opinions that resulted from the personages 
and scenes with which he was brought into contact, 

Italy was at this time in a state of convulsion, torn 1492. 
by foreign armies and domestic quarrels : the peace of 
the peninsula had died with Lorenzo de' Medici. That 
sagacious statesman saw the safety of his country in the 
preservation of the balance of power among its several 
rulers. It was his endeavour to check the encroachments 
of the king of Naples and the pope, who ruled southern 
Italy, by the influence of the duke of Milan, and of the 
Venetian republic ; while these again were prevented 
from attempting war with Florence, or trespassing on 
the smaller states of Romagna, by the jealousy of the 
sovereigns of the south. For many years no foreign 
army had crossed the Alps, and the battles of the con- 
dottieri became more and more innoxious. 

This fine system of policy fell to the ground on the 
death of Lorenzo. His son Piero, who succeeded him, 
was a rash, impolitic, and feeble statesman, defying 
dangers till they were close at hand, and then yielding 
weakly to them. He had not feared to make an enemy 
of Ludovico Sforza, who reigned over Milan in the 
name of his nephew Giovan Galeazzo, the rightful duke. 
Ludovico wished to play the old part of his wicked 
uncle, and to supplant the youthful prince; but he feared 
to be prevented by the king of Naples. To occupy and 
s 2 


weaken him, he invited Charles VIII. of France into 
Italy, instigating him to assert his right to the Nea- 
politan crown, which he claimed through Rene, who 
inherited it, together with the counties of Anjou and 
Provence. This was the origin of all the evils which 
overwhelmed Italy, crushed its spirit of liberty, de- 
stroyed its republics, and after making it a field of 
battle for many years, caused it in the end to become 
a mere appanage to the crowns of Germany, Spain, or 
France, according as these kingdoms enjoyed alternately 
the supreme power in Europe. 

1493. The entrance of the French into Italy caused great 
commotion in the city of Florence. It was considered 
by Lorenzo to be the policy of the Florentines to keep 
allies of the king of France : but Piero acted a thought- 
less and unstable part ; he at first opposed the French, 
and then threw himself into their hands. The Flo- 
rentines were enraged at the sacrifices he made to pacify 
an enemy which he had brought upon himself, and the 
result was his expulsion from the city, and the pver- 
throw and exile of the Medicean family. 

Charles VIII. overran Italy, and possessed himself of 
the kingdom of Naples without drawing a sword, except 
to massacre the defenceless people. The Italians were 
accustomed to a mild system of warfare ; they carried 
on their military enterprises by condottieri, or captains 
of independent bands of soldiers, who hired themselves 
to the best bidder. These condottieri consisted of fo- 
v reign adventurers, who came into Italy on the specu- 
lation of turning their military talents to profit, or of 
the minor native princes, or lords of single towns, who 
augmented their consequence and revenue *by raising 
troops, commanded by themselves, but paid by others. 
These mercenaries were inspired by no spirit of patriot- 
ism or party ; they fought for pay and booty ; they 
changed sides at the beck of their captain, who was 
influenced by the highest offer. They fought to-day 
side by side with men whom the next they might attack 
as enemies : they fought, therefore, in a placid spirit of 


friendly enmity ; often not a single soldier fell upon the 
field of battle. Add to this, they were very indifferently 
provided with fire-arms. The ferocity of the French, 
their artillery, discipline, and massacres, filled the un- 
warlike population with alarm and horror. They fled, 
or submitted without a blow. But Charles lost his 
conquest almost as soon as he gained it ; he returned to 
France, and the crown of Naples fell from his head at 
the same moment. 

His death followed soon after; and his successor, 
Louis XII., on turning his* eyes to Italy, rather fixed 
them on the duchy of Milan, to which he had preten- 
sions by right of inheritance. His conquest of this 1498., 
dukedom was speedy and complete, and he then pro- 
ceeded to possess himself of Naples. The king then 
reigning, Frederic of the house of Arragon, called 
in the Spaniards to his aid, and he was crushed in the 
collision of the two warlike nations. He was banished 
Naples and confined in France, while Louis and Fer- 
dinand at first amicably divided, and then hostilely 
fought for, the possession of his kingdom. 

Meanwhile the first entrance of Charles VIII. into 1501. 
Italy had left the seeds of discord and disaster in Tus- --JEtat, 
cany. Pisa was. at that time under the rule of Florence, 32> 
but repining at its servitude. When Charles entered 
Pisa, its citizens implored him to restore to them their 
independence : he promised to comply ; and though 
afterwards he made treaties to a contrary effect with 
Florence, the Pisans profited by his secret inclination 
in their favour, and the sympathy afforded them by the 
officers and men that composed his army, to shut their 
gates against their Florentine governors, and to assert 
their liberty. From this time it became the ardent 
desire of Florence to subdue the rebel city ; they ex. 
hausted all their resources in prosecution of this favour- 
ite object. Each year they attacked the walls, and 
destroyed the crops, of the unfortunate but resolute 
Pisans ; and, in each treaty they made with France, the 
chief article was a promise of aid in this desired con- 
s 3 


1500- quest. At one time they formed the siege of 
<Etat. and solicited Louis XII. to supply them with troopt 
3I> and artillery. That politic sovereign, who wished to 
strengthen himself in Italy, sent them douhle the force 
they required. These auxiliaries, composed of Swiss 
and Gascons, pillaged both friends and foes, quarrelled 
with the Florentine commissaries, came to a secret un- 
derstanding with Pisa, and, finally, on a pretence of a 
delay of pay, raised the siege. The king of France 
accused Florence of heing the cause of this affront sus- 
tained by his arms ; and, to appease him, and to obtain, 
if possible, further assistance, the republic deputed 
Francesco della Caza, and Machiavelli, as envoys to the 
French court. 

A year before Machiavelli had been employed on a 
mission to Caterina Sforza, countess of Forli, with re- 
gard to the terms of engagement offered to her son, for 
serving Florence as condottiere ; but the legation to 
France was of greater importance. The commissions, 
or instructions of the government to Machiavelli, and 
his letters to the state during this and all his other 
missions, are published. They are long and minute, 
but far less tedious than such correspondences usually 
are; and the reading them is indispensable to the form- 
ing; a just notion of his character, and a view of the 
actions of his life. There is something curiously in- 
teresting in the style of his instructions on the present 
occasion ; they display a civic simplicity of manners 
and language, and a sagacity in viewing the personages 
and events in question, combined with true Italian astute 
policy. Guicciardini observes, that when the French 
first entered Italy, they were astonished and disgusted 
by the want of faith and falsehood which prevailed in, 
their negotiations with the native princes and states. 
In this commission the Florentine government gave 
instructions to their envoys savouring of the prevalent 
vice of their country. The commander of the French 
forces before Pisa, Beaumont, had been appointed at 
their own request : he failed without any fault of his 1 


own, through the insubordination of the troops under 
him. The state of Florence instructed its envoys : 
ft According to circumstances you may accuse him vio- 
lently, and cast on him the imputation of cowardice and 
corruption ; or free him from all blame, and, speaking 
honourably of him, throw all the fault upon others. 
And take care how you criminate him, as we do not 
wish to lose his favour, without gaining any thing else- 
where by such a proceeding.'' 

Machiavelli and his fellow envoy remained in France 
three months, following the king and his court to Mont- 
argis, Melun, Plessis, and Tours. They were faithful 
and industrious in fulfilling their duties, especially 
Machiavelli ; Francesco della Caza being taken ill, and 
spending the greater part of his time at Paris. They 
failed in their object : the king wishing Florence to 
engage troops from him on the same terms, of paying 
all the expenses, and the Florentines wishing to induce 
him to form the siege at his own risk, reimbursing him 
only in case of success. Machiavelli meanwhile was 
very desirous to return home ; " because," he writes, 
<c my father died only a month before my departure, 
and since then I have lost a sister, and all my affairs 
are in disorder, so that I am injured in many ways." 
Towards the end of October, Florence sent an ambas- 
sador with greater powers to the French court, and the 
envoys returned to Italy. 

His next legation was to Caesar Borgia. It is ne- 
cessary to enlarge upon this mission. The great doubt 
that clouds Machiavelli's character regards the spirit in 
which he wrote the " Prince," whether he sincerely 
recommended the detestable principles of government 
which he appears to advocate, or used the weapons of 
irony and sarcasm to denounce a system of tyranny 
which then oppressed his native country. The ex- 
ample he brings forward most frequently in his treatise, 
is that of Caesar Borgia : his mode of governing his 
states, and the artifice and resolution with which he de- 
stroyed his enemies, are adduced as worthy of applause 
s 4 


and imitation. We must, therefore, not only enquire 
what the deeds of this man were, but endeavour to dis- 
cover the real sentiments of Machiavelli, the opinion 
that he formed upon his conduct, and the conclusions 
which he drew from his success. We' may also men- 
tion that the secretary has been accused of being Borgia's 
confidant in his plots. Mr. Roscoe has lightly adopted 
this idea ; but the course of the present narration will 
easily disprove it. : .< 

Soon after the death of Lorenzo de' Medici, died 
Innocent VIII. ; and Roderigo Borgia, a native of Va- 
lentia in Spain, and one of the most ancient of the 
cardinals, was chosen pope in his room. His election 
was carried by force of bribery and intrigue, to the 
horror and amazement of the whole Christian world ; 
since not only the methods by which he rose were known, 
but also the character and actions of the man thus 
exalted.* The new pontiff assumed the name of Alex- 
ander VI. " He was a man," to use the words of 
Guicciardini, " of singular prudence and sagacity ; en- 
dued with great penetration, and marvellous powers of 
persuasion, and always acting with extreme forethought 
and policy. But these good qualities were darkly clouded 
by the worst vices. His depraved life, his total want 
of shame, his contempt for good faith, religion, and 
truth, his matchless deceit, insatiable avarice, barbarous 
cruelty, and unbounded desire to exalt his numerous 
offspring, who were not less dissolute and unprincipled 
than himself, stained his character, and marked his 
reign with inexpressible infamy." 

Caesar Borgia, his younger son, had been educated 
for the church ; and, despite his illegitimate birth, was 
raised to the rank of cardinal. But Caesar disliked the 
sacerdotal profession, and was jealous of his elder 
brother, the duke of Candia, whom his father was de- 
sirous of raising to the highest temporal rank, both 
because of his success in arms, and also on account of 
the preference shown him by their sister Lucretia. In. 

* Guicdiardinu 


cited by these criminal passions, he one night caused 
the duke to be waylaid, murdered, and thrown into the 
Tiber. The pope was at first overwhelmed with grief 
on his son's death, and made great show of repentance 
. and reformation ; but soon after he cast aside all thoughts 
of this kind, and returned with renewed eagerness to 
his former pursuits and projects. Caesar gained the 
point at which he aimed. He was permitted to abdicate 
the cardinal's hat ; and, in reward for the dispensation 
which the pope granted Louis XII. to divorce his first 
wife, and to marry Anne of Britany, he obtained the 
duchy of Valence in France, and henceforth was com- 
monly called by the name of the duca Valentino, or 
Valentian duke. 

It was the chief ambition of this new temporal noble 
to form a principality in Italy. The territories of the 
marquisate of Savoy, of the duchy of Milan, and of the 
Venetian republic, embraced the greater portion of the 
peninsula north of the Apennines. To the south, the 
kingdom of Naples, Rome, and the republic of Florence, 
were the principal states; but other territories remained, 
a sovereignty over which was claimed by the popes, but 
which obeyed a variety of petty lords, whose families 
had for centuries enjoyed the rule. The various cities 
of Romagna to the east, Bologna to the north, Piombino 
to the west, and Perugia to the south, formed the chief: 
of these Caesar Borgia resolved to possess himself, ex- 
tending a prophetic eye to the future conquest of Tus- 
cany. Already he had acquired dominion over Romagna : 
he dispossessed the duke of Urbino and the prince of 
Piombino of their states, and now he turned his eyes 
towards Bologna. Giovanni Bentivoglio had long been 
lord of this wealthy city ; good fortune, rather than 
talents or a spirit of enterprise, had raised him, and he 
spared no blood in confirming his power. Caesar Borgia 
was supported in his encroachments by an alliance with 
Louis XII. In vain was it represented to this mon- 
arch *, " that it ill became the splendour of the French 
* Guicciardini. 


crown, and the title of most Christian king, to show 
favour to an infamous tyrant, the destroyer] of many 
states ; a man who thirsted for human blood, and was 
an example to the whole world of perfidy and inhu- 
manity; who, like a public robber, had broken faith 
with and murdered so many princes and nobles ; one 
stained with the Mood of his nearest kindred, and whose 
crimes of poisoning and stabbing were unequalled in a 
Christian country." Louis favoured him, not so much 
from his own inclination, as at the instigation of the 
cardinal d'Amboise, who was desirous of currying'favour 
with the pope ; and who, by protecting his son, obtained 
the high office of legate to France. 

At the moment of the commencement of his attack 
on Bologna, while running a full career of success, 
Caesar Borgia received a check from the revolt of his 
chief condottieri. Like all the other princes of Italy, 
the army of the duke of Valence consisted of various 
bands, independent of each other, and obeying several 
distinct captains. The chief among these were Vitel- 
lozzo Vitelli,, lord of Citta Castello, Oliverotto da Fermo, 
in the March, and Paolo Orsino, who was master of a 
large portion of the patrimony of St. Peter, and the 
duke of Gravina, also of the Orsini family. These men 
assembled at Magione, near Perugia ; they were joined 
in their consultations by cardinal Orsini, chief of the 
family, and then at enmity with the pope; Giovanpaolo 
Baglioni, lord of Perugia, Hermes Bentivoglio, who re- 
presented his father, lord of Bologna, and Antonio da 
Venafro, minister of Pandolfo Petrucci, lord of Siena. 
These last-named nobles feared the encroachments of 
Borgia, and gladly availed themselves of an opportunity 
to seduce away his captains, and to check his enterprises. 
It is to be remembered that the individuals thus con- 
spiring were men stained with the crimes of treachery 
and assassination, then so rife in Italy men whose 
aim was power, and who thought every method that led 
to it justifiable. For Caesar ran no new career of crime: 
he travelled in the same path with many of his con- 


temporaries, while he excelled them all in resolution, 
intrepidity, and remorseless cruelty : his abilities were 
greater, his conscience more seared. Inhuman, stern, 
and treacherous, he was yet sagacious, eloquent, cour- 
teous, and plausible. It was a common saying at Rome, 
that the pope never did what he said, and that his son 
never said what he did. * Prudence and success mean- 
while gained for him the respect even of those by whom 
he was abhorred. 

The conspirators at Magione were at once aware of 
the character of the man with whom they had to deal; 
and the small faith they could repose in each other ; 
but they saw their destruction in the fulfilment of 
Borgia's ambitious schemes ; and this served as a com- 
mon bond between them. They took care to gather 
together their troops, and, occupying the country be- 
tween Romagna and Rome, they hoped to prevent 
Caesar from receiving aid from his father. The duke of 
Urbino, whose duchy Borgia had lately seized, joined 
the league, and suddenly appearing at the head of some 
forces, repossessed himself of his territories, in which 
he was greatly beloved. Borgia was at Imola with but 
few troops when he heard of the loss of Urbino, and 
the revolt of his captains. These men invited the 
Florentines to join them. The republic feared Borgia, 
but they hated yet more the conspirators, as there 
existed between them various and urgent motives of 
enmity : they feared also to displease the king of France 
by taking part against his ally. They discountenanced, 
therefore, the advances of the captains, and sent Machia- 
velli to the duke at Imola, to inform him of this cir- 
cumstance, and to assure him in general terms of their 
continued amity ; and, moreover, to watch the progress 
of the conspiracy, and to learn what hope Borgia en- 
tertained of repelling the menaced injury. 

Machiavelli approached without any feeling of ab- 1502. 
horrence, a man honoured and protected by the king -32tat. 
of France. He had no sympathy with the conspirators, 33> 

* Guicciardini. 



but rather hated them, as the enemies of his country, and 
as traitors. Borgia commanded more respect. He was 
a man of greater powers of mind ; a high and com- 
manding spirit, running a prosperous career, who had 
hitherto overcome every obstacle to his advancement.* 
It was a curious study to observe the methods he would 
use to crush the nest of traitors in league against him. 

Machiavelli arrived at Imola on the 7th of October, 
and was instantly admitted to an audience with the 
duke. Borgia received him with every show of cour- 
tesy and kindness. He was in high spirits, declaring 
that the stars that year were inimical to rebels, and that 
the revolt was a piece of good fortune, since it enabled 
him to distinguish his friends from his foes, at a critical 
moment. He declared that his clemency had been the 
cause of this disaster, and frankly entered into details 
concerning the progress made by the confederates. 

From day to day Machiavelli continued to see and 
converse with Borgia, who exerted the grace of manner 
for which he was renowned, and a show of cordiality, 
to win the suffrage of the yet inexperienced secretary. 
" I cannot express to you," Machiavelli writes to his 
government, " the earnest demonstrations he makes of 
affection towards the republic, and how eagerly he jus- 
tifies himself with regard to his threatened attack last 
year, throwing the blame upon Vitellozzo Vitelli." 
Borgia's chief endeavour at this moment was to influence 
the secretary to persuade his government to give some 
public testimonial of its attachment to him. He spoke 
with the utmost confidence of his ultimate success; 
assuring Machiavelli, that among the many fortunate 
events that had befallen him, this conspiracy was most 
lucky of all, as it had caused his more powerful friends 
to declare for him. 

Meanwhile, though he thus " vaunted aloud," he was 

acting with consummate prudence and caution. His 

object was to gain time. He wished to remain inactive 

till he had gathered together a sufficient number of troops 

* Lettere di Machiavelli, Legazione al Duca Valentino. 


to insure success. He was at one time thwarted in 
this purpose by two Spanish captains in his pay, whom 
he had summoned to Imola ; who, fancying that a good 
opportunity presented itself of attacking the enemy, had 
themselves been vanquished and put to flight. Borgia 
kept this disaster as secret as possible; he expected 
troops from France and Switzerland, and gathered to- 
gether all the broken-off lances in the country. A lance 
was a term used to signify a mounted cavalier with five 
or six followers ; and the condottiere formed a greater 
or less number of lances into a troop. But often single 
cavaliers with their followers broke off from the band 
to which they belonged, and were thence called Lancie 

Besides these more evident methods of defending 
himself, Borgia hoped that dissention might be intro- 
duced among the confederates.; that he should be able to 
entice away a portion, and then, by policy and artifice, 
bring them to terms. His hopes were not deceived. 
About the middle of October, Paolo Orsino sent to say, 
that if the duke would send a hostage in pledge for his 
safety, he would repair to Imola. Caesar eagerly seized . 
on this opening for negotiation ; cardinal Borgia was put 
into the hands of the confederates, and Paolp Orsino 
arrived at Imola on the 25th of October. Machiavelli 
watched with intense interest the progress of this visit, 
and the subsequent proceedings. 4 " No military move- 
ment is made on either side," he writes to the signoria 
of Florence, " and these treaties for reconciliation benefit 
the duke, who readily entertains them ; but I cannot 
judge with what intentions." He goes on to state the 
difficulties that must stand in the way of the renewing 
of amity ; " so that," he continues, " I do not find 
any one who can guess how the reconciliation can be 
effected. Some people think that the duke will entice 
away a part of the confederates; and when they no 
longer hold together, he will cease to fear them. I in 
cline to this opinion, having heard him let fall words 
that have this tendency to his ministers. Yet it is 


difficult to believe that so recent a confederacy can be 
broken up." 

Borgia took great pains to preserve Machiavelli's pre- 
possession in favour of his good fortune and success. 
He pressed him to bring his government to decisive 
measures in his favour. He caused his ministers to 
urge those topics which would come more gracefully 
through a third person. These men besieged the 
secretary's ear with confidential advice. They assured 
him that Florence was losing an admirable opportunity 
for securing the duke's friendship ; they represented 
what a fortunate, high-spirited man he was, accus- 
tomed to success, and despising his present dangers. 
Machiavelli sent minute details of these conversations 
to his government, adding, " Your lordships hear the 
words which the duke uses, and, knowing who it is that 
speaks, you will draw conclusions with your accustomed 
prudence." On another occasion he recounts a long 
conversation he held with Borgia, who showed him 
letters received from France, which assured him of the 
friendship of its powerful monarch. " I have often told 
you," Csesar continued, " and again I say, that I shall 
not be without assistance. The French cavalry and the 
Swiss infantry will soon arrive, and the pope will supply 
me with money. I do not wish to boast, nor to say 
more than that it is probable that my enemies will re- 
pent their perfidy. As to your masters, I cannot be 
more satisfied with them than I am ; so that you may 
offer them on my part all that it is in my power to do. 
When you first came, I spoke in general terms, because 
my affairs were in so bad a condition that I did not 
know on what ground I stood, and I did not wish your 
government to think that danger made me a large 
promiser. But now that I fear less, I promise more ; 
and when my fears are quite at an end, deeds shall be 
added to my words, when there is call for them." 

ff Your lordships," continues Machiavelli, fe hear the 
duke's words, of which I do not put down one half; 
and, knowing the manner of man, can judge accordingly. 


Since I have been here, nothing but good has happened 
to him ; which has been caused by the certainty that 
every one feels that the king of France will help him 
with troops, and the pope with money." 

Machiavelli was evidently filled with high admiration 
of Borgia's talents, and won by his persuasive manners. 
There is abundant proof, however, that he did not pos- 
sess his confidence. He was perpetually soliciting 
to be recalled : " For the time is past," he writes, 
" for temporising, and a man of more authority than I 
is needed to conclude this treaty. My own affairs are 
also in the greatest disorder, nor can I remain here 
without money." The Florentine government thought 
otherwise ; they determined to await the developement 
of events before they concluded any treaty. 

These were hastening onwards to a catastrophe. 
Borgia by this time had collected a considerable force 
together of French, Swiss, and Italians ; but he was 
willing to overcome his adversaries by other arts than 
those of war. The confederates, from weakness or fear, 
or by force of Borgia's persuasive eloquence, were won 
to agree to a treaty of reconciliation. After some 
parley, it was signed early in the month of November : 
the terms consisted principally of renewed professions 
of perpetual peace, concord, and union; with a re- 
mission and forgetfulness of injuries; the duke pro- 
mising a sincere renewal of friendship, and the con- 
federates pledging themselves to defend the duke. He 
was to continue to them their engagements as con- 
dottieri, and they were to assist him to recover the 
duchy of Urbino. It was agreed that one only of the 
confederates at a time should be called on to remain in 
the duke's camp, and in his power ; but they promised 
to deliver to him their children and near relatives as 
hostages, whenever they should be demanded. Such is 
a sketch of a treaty which dissolved a confederacy so 
formidable to Borgia, and placed him, without drawing 
a sword, in a position as favourable as when his enemies 
first assembled at Magione. 


Machiavelli could not be deceived by this apparent 
reconciliation ; and he was eager to discover Borgia's 
secret* views. Far from being consulted concerning his 
plans, he now found it very difficult to obtain an 
audience : " For/' he writes, ' ' they live here only for 
their own good, and for that which appears to them to 
contribute to it. Paolo Orsini arrived yesterday, bring- 
ing the articles ratified^ and subscribed by Vitellozzo 
and all the other confederates ; and he endeavours, as 
well as he can, to persuade the duke, that they all mean 
to be faithful, and to undertake any enterprise for him. 
The duke appears satisfied. Vitellozzo also writes 
grateful and submissive letters, excusing himself and 
making / offers ; and saying, that if he had an opportu- 
nity to speak to him, he could fully justify himself, 
and show that what he had done was without any in- 
tention of injuring him. The duke listens to all ; and 
what he means to do no one knows, for it is very dif- 
ficult to penetrate him. Judging by his words and 
those of his chief ministers, it is impossible not to ex- 
pect evil for others, for the injury done him has been 
great ; and his conversation, and that of those around 
him, is full of indignation against Vitellozzo.* One 
spoke to me yesterday, who is the man nearest the 
duke, saying, ' This traitor has stabbed us, and now 
thinks to heal the wound with words, but children 
might laugh at the articles of this treaty.' " 

The treaty being ratified, it was debated what action 
the duke should put the, captains upon. After a good 
deal of discussion, it was agreed that they should go 
against Sinigaglia, a town belonging to the duke of 

' * It must be mentioned, that a great enmity subsisted between the Flo- 
rentines and Vitellozzo VitellL His brother, Paolo Vitelli, had commanded 
the troops of the republic at one time before Pisa, and was suspected by 
them of treachery. They sent for him one night to come to Florence, 
and he obeyed without hesitation. On his arrival he was seized, cast into 
prison, tortu e.1, and, though no confession could be extorted from him, he 
was put to death the same night. It was the intention of the Florentine 
government to seize on Vitellozzo also, but he escaped and took refuge in 
Pisa Borgia had at one time taken up the cause of the Medici, and 
threatened Florence : he now threw the blame of this action upon the 
counsels of Vitellozzo. 


Urbino. While this enterprise was under consideration, 
Borgia left Imola. Machiavelli writes, on the 10th of 
December,, " The duke left this place this morning, and 
is gone to Forli with his whole army. To-morrow 
evening he will be at Cesena ; but it is not known what 
he will do after that ; nor is there any one here who 
fancies that he can guess. I shall set out to-morrow, 
and follow the court unwillingly, because I am not 
well ; and, in addition to my indisposition, I have 
received from your lordships fifty ducats, and I have 
spent seventy-two, having only seven left in my purse. 
But I must obey necessity." 

On the 14th of December, Machiavelli writes, from 
Cesena, ce As I before wrote, every one is in suspense with 
regard to the duke's intentions, who is here with all his 
forces. After many conjectures, they conclude that he 
means to get possession of the persons of those who have 
so deeply injured, and nearly deprived him of his do- 
minions : and although the treaty he has made contra- 
dicts this notion, yet his past actions render it probable ; 
and I am of this opinion from what I have heard and 
reported in my letters. We shall see what will happen ; 
and I will do my duty in acquainting you with all that 
passes while I remain here : which cannot be long ; 
for, in the first place, I have only four ducats left in 
my purse ; and in the second, my further stay is of no 
utility. To speak to your lordships with the truth 
which I have always practised, it would be better if you 
sent a person of more reputation to treat of your affairs : 
I am not fit, as they need a more eloquent man one 
more known, and who knows the world better than I." 
It would seem as if Machiavelli tremblingly foresaw the 
tragedy at hand, and wished to withdraw; in fear, per- 
haps, of being used as an instrument by Borgia, or 
suspected of any participation in his crimes. 

On the 23d of December, he reports that the duke 
had suddenly dismissed all his French troops. He had 
requested an audience, to discover the cause of this 

VOL. I. T 


movement ; but received only an evasive answer, that 
the duke would send for him when he wanted him. 
It soon became evident that the ease with which the 
confederates fell into Borgia's snares, rendered useless 
the armed force he had gathered together for their de- 
struction ; and he dismissed an army, the maintaining 
of which might excite suspicion. 

Again Machiavelli writes, from Cesena, on the 26th 
of December, " I have not been able to obtain an au- 
dience of the duke, his excellency being engaged in re- 
viewing his infantry, and in his pleasures, preparatory 
to Christmas. As I have before repeated, this prince 
is most secret; nor do I believe that any one except 
himself is aware of what he is going to do. His prin- 
cipal secretaries have assured me that he never com- 
municates any thing till the moment of execution ; and 
he executes on the instant: so I hope you will not 
accuse me of negligence, in not being able to tell any 
thing ; as I know nothing myself." 

The catastrophe was now at hand. The captains sent 
Borgia word that they had taken Sinigaglia, but that 
the fortress still held out ; nor would the castellan de- 
liver the keys to any but the duke in person ; and they 
advised him, therefore, to come to receive them. 
Thus invited by the captains themselves, Borgia thought 
it an excellent opportunity to approach them without 
exciting suspicion. With great art he persuaded Vitelli 
and Paolo Orsino to wait for him at Sinigaglia, saying 
that their suspicion and timidity would render their 
reconciliation unstable and short-lived. Vitellozzo felt 
how unsafe it was, first to injure a prince, and then to 
put trust in him : but he was over-persuaded to remain 
by Orsino, whom the duke had corrupted by promises 
and gifts. Borgia left Fano on the 30th of December, 
and on the following day repaired to Sinigaglia ; and 
on the evening of the last day of that month, Machia- 
velli wrote a short note to his government from that 
town, containing these words only : "I wrote, the 
day before yesterday, from Pesaro, all I had heard con- 


earning Sinigaglia.* I removed yesterday to Fano. 
Early this morning, the duke departed with all his 
troops, and came here to Sinigaglia, where were as- 
sembled all the Orsini and Vitellozzo, who had taken 
the town for him. He invited them to come around 
him ; and, the moment he entered the town, he turned 
to his guard, and caused them to be taken prisoners. 
Thus he has secured them all, and the town is being 
pillaged. It is now twenty-three o'clock.*)* I am in 
the greatest anxiety, not knowing how to forward this 
letter, as there is no one to take it. I will write at 
length in another. In my opinion, they will not be 
alive to-morrow. All their people are also taken ; and 
the official notice distributed about, says that the traitors 
are arrested." 

In another place, Machiavelli gives the details of the 
mode in which these men were deluded into trusting 
themselves in the hands of one so notorious for perfidy 
and sanguinary revenge.^ " On the 30th of December," 
he says, " on setting out from Fano, the duke com- 
municated his design to eight of his most faithful fol- 
lowers. He committed to their care, that, when Vitel- 
lozzo, Paolo Orsino, the duke of Gravina, and Oliverotto 
da Fermo should advance to meet him, two of his 
friends should take one of them between them ; and that 
they should thus continue to guard them till they 
reached the house where the duke was to lodge. He 
then stationed his troops so as to be near enough to 
support him, without exciting suspicion. The confe- 
derates, meanwhile, to afford room for the soldiery 
which Borgia brought with him, had caused their 
own to retire to various castles six miles distant, Oli- 

* This letter is lost ; and we are thus deprived of a most interesting link 
in the correspondence, and an insight into Machiavelli's feelings. In 

it he detailed the half confidence that Borgia at last reposed in him when, 

at the moment of execution, there was no longer any necessity for conceal! 
ing his intentions. 

f Half an hour before sunset : in December, about half after three 

J " Account of the Mode in which the Valentian Duke ce.troyed Vi- 
tellozzo Vitelli, Paolo Orsino, &c. &c." 


verotto alone retaining his band of 1000 foot and 150 
horse. Every thing being thus arranged, Borgia pro- 
ceeded to Sinigaglia. Vitellozzo, Paolo Orsino, and the 
duke of Gravina came out to meet him, mounted on mules, 
and accompanied by a few followers on horseback. 
Vitellozzo was unarmed; and his desponding coun- 
tenance seemed prophetic of his approaching death. It 
was said that he took, as it were, a last leave of his 
friends when he left the town ; recommending the 
fortunes of his family to the chief among them, and 
bidding his nephews bear in mind the virtues of their 
race. These three were received cordially by the duke, 
and immediately taken in charge, as had been arranged. 
Perceiving that Oliverotto da Fermo was not among 
them he having remained with his troop to receive 
Borgia in the market-place he signed to one of his 
followers to devise some means to prevent his escape. 
This man went instantly to Oliverotto, and advised him 
to order his men to repair to quarters immediately, 
otherwise their lodgings would be occupied by the band 
accompanying the duke. Oliverotto listened to the 
sinister counsel, and, unaccompanied, joined Borgia and 
the rest on their entrance into the .town. As soon as 
they arrived at the duke's palace, the signal was given, 
and they were made prisoners." Machiavelli's anti- 
cipations were fulfilled nearly to the letter. Vitellozzo 
and Oliverotto were strangled in prison the same night. 
Paolo Orsino and the duke of Gravina were kept alive 
till Borgia heard that the pope had seized on the persons 
of the other chiefs of the Orsini family ; when, on the 
18th of the January following, they were also strangled 
in prison. 

On the very day of the execution of this treacherous 
and cruel act of revenge, Machiavelli had an audience 
with its perpetrator. He writes, " The duke sent for 
me at the second hour of night*, and with a most 

* Twohoursandahalfafter'sunset. The Italian day of twenty-four hours 
ends at dark, i. e. half an hour after sunset ; and then they begin one, two ; 
but as they often say, one o'clock after noon, two o'clock alter noon, so 


cheerful countenance congratulated himself and me on 
his success, saying that he had alluded to it to me the 
day before, but not fully explained himself: which is 
true. He added many prudent and very affectionate 
expressions concerning our city ; alleging all those rea- 
sons which made him desire your friendship, if you 
entertain the same feelings towards him ; all of which 
filled me with exceeding surprise. He concluded by 
bidding me write three things to you. First, that I 
should congratulate you on his having put to death the 
enemies alike of the king of France, you, and himself, 
and destroyed every seed of dissention which had threat- 
ened to ruin Italy ; for which you ought to be obliged 
to him. Secondly, he begged me to entreat you to 
make manifest to the world that you were his friends, 
and to send forward some troops to assist his attack on 
Castello or Perugia." 

On the 8th of January, Machiavelli uses expressions 
in his letter most characteristic of Italian policy and 
morals at that period. " It excites surprise here," he 
writes, " that you should not have written nor sent to 
congratulate the duke on the deed which he has lately 
executed, which redounds to your advantage, and on 
account of which our city ought to feel grateful ; they say 
that it would have cost the republic 200,000 ducats 
to get rid of Vitellozzo and the Orsini, and even then 
it would not have been so completely done as by the 
duke. It is doubtful what his success will be at Peru- 
gia : as, on one side, we find a prince gifted with un- 
paralleled good fortune, and a sanguine spirit, more than 
human, to accomplish all his desires ; and, on the other 
hand, a man of extreme prudence, governing a -state 

they designate these evening hours as hours of night. This method of 
counting time is still practised by the common people in Italy, south of the 
Apennines ; and, indeed, by every one of all ranks at Naples and Rome. 
Our mode of counting time is called by the Italians, French time, as it was 
first introduced after the conquests of Napoleon. It is often puzzling to 
hear of fourteen or fifteen o'clock, it is necessary to remember the season 
of the year, and the hour of sunset, and how far that is oft'. On this oc- 
casion, theSlst of December, the second hour of night was about half after 
x o'clock p. M. ; the sun setting at about four in December, in Italy. 
T 3 


with great reputation." The secretary adds, with 
praiseworthy diffidence, and considerable self-knowledge, 
<f If I form a false judgment, it arises not only from 
my inexperience, but also from my views being con- 
fined to what is going on here, on which I am led to 
form the opinions I have expressed above." 

The republic now thought it time to replace Machia- 
velli by an ambassador of more authority ; and the 
secretary returned to Florence at the end of the month 
of January. 

1503. It is evident from this detail, taken from Machia- 
velli's own letters, that he was not intrusted with the 
secret of a prince, who, he says, never revealed his 
purposes to any one before the moment of execution. 
Yet it is also plain that, at last, he began to suspect 
the tragedy in preparation; and that neither the an- 
ticipation nor the fulfilment inspired him with ab- 
horrence for the murderer ; while his contempt of 
the confederates, and admiration of the talents and 
success of their destroyer, is every where apparent : 
nor was this a short-lived feeling. Without mentioning 
the (f Prince," in which this act of Borgia is alluded to 
with praise, he is mentioned with approbation in se- 
veral of his private letters. He wrote " A Description 
of the Method used by the Valencian Duke in putting to 
death Vitellozzo Vitelli, &c." This is purely narrative, 
and contains no word of comment or censure. There is 
besides a poem of his, entitled " The Decenal," in which 
he proposes to relate the sufferings of Italy during ten 
years : in this he mentions the crime of Borgia. ' ' After 
the duke of Valence/' he says, " had exculpated him- 
self to the king of France, he, returned to Romagna, 
with the intention of going against Bologna. It appears 
that Vitellozzo Vitelli and Paolo Orsino resolved not 
to a'ssist him ; and these serpents, full of venom, began 
to conspire together, and to tear him with their talons 
and teeth. Borgia, ill able to defend himself, was 
obliged to take refuge behind the shield of France; and 
to take his enemies by a snare, the basilisk whistled softly, 
to allure them to his den. In a short time, the traitor 


of Fermo, and Vitellozzo, and that Orsino who had 
been so much his friend, fell readily into his toils ; in 
which the Orsino (bear} lost more than a paw ; and 
Vitelli was shorn of the other horn (alluding to his 
brother's death at Florence as one horn). Perugia and 
Siena heard the boast of the hydra, and each tyrant 
fled before his fury : nor could the cardinal Orsino 
escape the ruin of his unhappy house, but died the 
victim of a thousand arts." 

It must be mentioned that, notwithstanding individual 
acts of ferocity of which Caesar Borgia was guilty, he 
was an equitable sovereign favouring the common 
people, and restraining the nobles in their sanguinary 
quarrels and extortionate oppression. His subjects were, 
therefore, much attached to him. There is an anecdote 
relating to his system of government, narrated in the 
" Prince," which may be quoted as exceedingly charac- 
teristic. It is one of the examples brought forward 
by Machiavelli in his treatise, to show how a prince 
can prudently consolidate his power in a newly acquired 
state. ' ( When the duke had taken Romagna, he found 
it governed by feeble lords, who had rather robbed 
than corrupted their subjects, and sown discord rather 
than preserved peace so that this province was the prey 
of extortion, lawlessness, and all other kind of oppression. 
He judged it necessary to govern it strictly, and to 
reduce it to obedience and tranquillity. For this pur- 
pose he set over it Ramiro d'Orco, a cruel and resolute 
man, to whom he confided absolute power. He soon 
established order in the province. The duke then judged 
that so despotic an authority might become odious ; and 
he set up a civil court in the middle of the province, 
with an excellent president, at which each city had 
its advocate. And because he knew that the former 
rigor had generated hatred, to conciliate and win this 
people, he wished to prove that the cruelties that had 
been practised did not emanate from him, but from the 
severity of his minister ; and seizing Ramiro, he caused 
him one morning to be placed on a scaffold in the 
T 4 


market-place of Cesena, divided in two,, wifh a wooden 
block and bloody knife at his side. The horror of which 
spectacle caused the people to remain for some time 
satisfied and stupid." 

This act took place under the very eyes of Machia- 
velli, when he was at Cesena with Borgia. He thus 
mentions it in his public correspondence : " Messer 

i i Ramiro was found this morning divided in two in the 
market-place., where he yet is,, and all the people can 
behold him. The cause of his death is not well known, 
except that it seemed good to the prince, who shows 
that he knows how to make and unmake men at will, 
according to their merits." 

To us, who cannot sympathise with the high spirit 
and good fortune of Borgia, it is consolatory to know 
that his triumph was short-lived, and his ruin complete. 
It fell to Machiavelli to witness the last scene of his 
expiring power, being sent on a legation to Rome at 
the time of his downfall. 

1503. The duke of Valence was still enjoy ing the complete sue. 
cess of his enterprises: courage and duplicity, united, ren- 
dered him victorious over all his enemies. He was at 
Rome, carrying on a negotiation with the king of France, 
which was to extend and secure his power, when suddenly, 

Aug. one afternoon, the pope was brought back dead from a 
28. vineyard, whither he had gone to recreate himself after 
the heats of the day ; and Caesar was also brought back 
soon after, to all appearance dying. The story went that 
they were both poisoned, having drunk by mistake some 
wine prepared by themselves for the destruction of 
one of their guests.* The pope's body was exposed 
in St. Peter's on the following day, according to 
custom ; it was swollen, discoloured, and frightfully dis- 
figured. Caesar's youth, and the speedy use he had 
made of an antidote, saved his life ; but he remained 
for a long time in a state of great suffering and illness. 
He told Machiavelli, about this time, that he had foreseen 
and provided against every reverse of fortune that could 
possibly befall him, except his father dying at a time when 

* Guicciardini. 


he should himself be disabled by disease. He could now 
enter but ineffectually into the intrigues necessary to en- 
sure the election of a pope favourable to himself. Indeed, 
the death of Alexander was so sudden, that none of the 
persons interested found time to exert their resources ; 
and a cardinal was raised to the pontifical throne, whose 
sole merit consisted in his great age and decrepitude. 
Francesco Picoloraini, nephew of Pius II., was pro- 
claimed pope on the 22d of September, under the name 
of Pius III. 

He did not deceive the hopes of the cardinals; he 
reigned twenty-eight days only; and his death, which oc- 
curred on the 1 8th of October, left the throne again vacant. 
The cardinals, during this interval, had prepared their 
measures, and looked forward to a greater struggle and 
more important choice. The government of Florence 
thought it right to send an envoy, on this occasion, to 1503. 
watch over its interests, and to influence consultations -^ tat * 
which would be held concerning the future destination of 
Borgia. He had already lost the greater part of his 
conquests: Piombino and Urbino revolted to their former 
lords; and nothing remained to him but Romagna, whose 
inhabitants he had attached by the firm system of govern- 
ment before mentioned. The nobles, however, who 
had formerly governed its various towns, were trying to 
regain possession of them ; and Venice eyed it as an 
easy prey. The popes believed, that by right, it be- 
longed to them ; and Borgia had reigned over it as 
vassal to the church : this clash of interests led him to 
believe that he could induce any future pope to side 
with him. The neighbourhood of the cities in question 
to Tuscany, rendered it imperative to Florence to watch 
over their fate. 

Machiavelli was sent by them just before the cardi- 
nals entered into conclave where, without hesitation or 
a dissentient' voice, they elected Julian da Rovera, car- 
dinal of San Pietro in Vincola, who assumed the name 
of Julius II. This prelate had been all his life at open 
enmity with Alexander VI.: his disposition was am- 


bitious, restless, fiery, and obstinate; and during the 
struggles against the papal power in which he had been 
engaged all his life, he had offended many, and excited 
the hatred of a number of powerful persons. Above 
all, it was to be supposed that Caesar Borgia would 
oppose him ; and he exercised great influence over the 
Spanish cardinals. But the duke had to contend with 
much adversity, so that he had but a choice of evils 
before him. During this interval, even Romagna had 
fallen from him, with the exception of its fortresses, of 
which he possessed the keys. Julian da Rovera made 
him large promises ; and in an age when duplicity flou- 
lished far and wide, he had been celebrated for his 
veracity and good faith; even his old enemy, Alexan- 
der VI., declared that the cardinal di San Pietro in Vin- 
cola was sincere and trusty. 

As soon as the new pope was elected, it was projected 
to send Borgia with an army to Romagna, to conquer 
it in the name of the holy see. Machiavelli had fre- 
quent interviews with the fallen prince at this time, 
and appears to have thrown off that admiration which 
his success and spirit had formerly inspired; and he 
testifies no sympathy or regret in his misfortunes. Borgia 
complained of the little friendship shown him by Flo- 
rence ; and declared that he would relinquish every other 
hope, for the sake of attacking and ruining the republic. 
The secretary reports his angry expressions to his go- 
vernment, and adds the words of cardinal d'Amboise, 
who exclaimed that " God, who never left any crime 
unpunished, would not let this man escape with im- 
punity I " 

The career of this bad hero was now drawing to a 
close. In the month of November, he set out in the 
middle of the night for Ostia, to the great satisfaction 
of all Rome, for the purpose of embarking for Spezia, 
with a troop of five hundred men, and then of pro- 
ceeding to Romagna. But the pope, who had hitherto 
given no mark of an intention to break his promises, 
suddenly determined to violate that good faith which had 


formerly adorned his character, and sent the Tuscan cardi- 
nal of Volterra (who was of course Borgia's bitter enemy) 
after him, to demand an order to the officers who held 
the castles in Romagna, that they should be given into 
the pope's hands. Borgia refused to comply with a 
requisition which deprived him of the last remnant of 
his power ; on which he was arrested and placed on 
board a French galley. " It is not yet known," Ma- 
chiavelli writes to his government on the 26'th of No- 
vember, " whether the duke is still on board the vessel, 
or brought here. Various things are reported. One person 
told me that, being yesterday evening in the pope's cham- 
ber, two men arrived from Ostia, when he was immedi- 
ately dismissed; but, while in the next room, he overheard 
these men say that the duke had been thrown into the 
Tiber, as the pope had commanded.* I do not quite 
believe in this story, but I do not deny it; and, I dare say, 
if it has not already happened, it will happen. The pope, 
it is evident, is beginning to pay his debts honourably, 
and cancels them with a stroke of his pen. Every 
one, however, blesses this deed ; and the more he does 
of the like, the more popular will he be. Since the 
duke is taken, whether he be alive or dead, no account 
need be made of him. Nevertheless, when I hear any 
thing certain, you shall have intelligence." 

The pope, however, had not yet learnt wholly to 
despise the force of promises and oaths. Borgia was 
brought back to the Vatican, and treated honourably. It 
was supposed at one time that he would be proceeded 
against legally : and Machiavelli several times pressed 
his government to send him the papers necessary to in- 
stitute any accusation on their part. At length, the 
duke gave the order to his castellans to surrender the 
fortresses in question to the pope, and was set at liberty. 
He instantly repaired to Naples, possessed of nothing 
more than a sum of money which he had deposited 

* There is something in the entrance of these " two murderers," and 
their secret conference with the pope, that reminds one of scenes in Shak- 
speare, which appear improbable in our days of ceremony and exclusion. 


with the Genoese bankers., but happy in having re- 
covered his personal freedom. His ambitious mind 
quickly conceived new schemes ; and he tried to per- 
suade the Spanish general at Naples, Consalvo, to assist 
him in his project of throwing himself into Pisa, and 
of defending it against Florence. Consalvo listened 
and temporised, till he received the directions of his 
sovereign, which he immediately obeyed. In con- 
formity with these, Borgia was arrested and sent on 
board a galley, which conveyed him to Spain. On his 
arrival, he was confined in the fortress of Medina del 

^ Campo, there to remain during his life. He continued 
a prisoner, however, for two years only. In 1 506, with 
great audacity and labour, he let himself down from the 
castle by a rope, and fled to the court of John king of 
Navarre, who was his wife's brother ; where he lived for 
some years in a humble state, the king of France having 
confiscated his duchy of Valence, and forbidding him to 
enter France. Finally, having gone out with the forces 
of the king of Navarre to attack Viana, an insignificant 
castle of that kingdom, he was surprised by an ambush, 
and killed. 

We have anticipated a little, to conclude the history 
of this man, who figures so prominently in Machiavelli's 
writings, and now return to the secretary himself. We 
have not space to dilate with the same minuteness on his 
succeeding embassies ; and there is nothing in them of 
peculiar interest. His letters are always full of keen 
observation; and show him to have been sagacious, 
faithful, and diligent. The republic kept him actively 
employed ; and the end of one legation was the beginning 
of another. He left Rome, after Borgia's arrest, in 

1504. December; and, in the January following, went to 
JEtat. F rance ^ to ask the protection of Louis against the dangers 
which Florence imagined to threaten them from the 
Spanish army at Naples. A peace, concluded between 
France and Spain, dissipated these fears ; and the secre- 
tary, after a month's residence at Lyons, returned to his 
own country. After this, he was sent on four insigni- 


ficant missions to Piombino, Perugia, Mantua, and 1505. 
Siena. His next employment was to raise troops in -^ tat . 
the Florentine territories. 

Machiavelli was too clear-sighted and well-judging, 1506. 
not to perceive the various and great evils that resulted 
from the republic engaging condottieri to fight its 
battles. He endeavoured to impress upon the signoria 
the advantages that would arise from the formation of a 
native militia ; and, at length, succeeded. A law was 
passed for the enrolling the peasantry, and he was 
charged with th execution. His proceedings were 
conducted with patience and industry : his letters con- 
tain accounts of the obstacles he met from the prejudices 
of the people with whom he had to deal, the pains he 
took to obviate them, and the care he was at to select 
recruits who might be depended on. 

Pope Julius, at this time, had conceived the project of 
reducing to obedience to the holy see all those towns which 
he considered as rightfully belonging to it. He obtained 
promises of aid from France ; demanded it from Flo- 
rence ; and then set out on an expedition against Gio- 
vanni Bentivoglio, lord of Bologna. The Florentines 
were anxious, from economical motives, to defer sending 
their quota as long as they could ; and they delegated 
their secretary to the court militant of Rome, to make 
excuses, and to watch over the progress of its arms. 
Machiavelli joined the court at Civita Castellana, and 1506. 
proceeded with it to Viterbo, Perugia, Urbino, and 
Imola. His letters during this legation are highly 
interesting ; presenting a lively picture of the violence 
and impetuosity of Julius II., whose resolute and intel- 
ligent countenance Raphael has depicted on canvas in so 
masterly a manner. When Bentivoglio sent ambassadors 
to him, he actually scolded them addressing them in 
public, and using, as the secretary says, the most angry 
and venomous expressions. Machiavelli adds : " Every 
one believes that, if he succeeds with regard to Bologna, 
he will lose no time in attempting greater things ; and 
it is hoped that Italy will be preserved from him 


who attempted to devour it (meaning the king of 
France). Now, or never." Bentivoglio made some 
preparations to fortify Bologna ; but, on the arrival of 
troops from France in aid of his enemy, his heart failed 
him. and he entered int6 a treaty, by which he pre- 
served his private property ; and then, with his wife 
and children, he abandoned the city he had so long 
reigned over, and took refuge in the duchy of Milan. 

It was apprehended, at this time, that the emperor 
Maximilian would enter Italy with an army ; and its 
various states sent ambassadors to him, to make favour- 
able terms. The emperor had applied to Florence for 
money ; and the republic sent Francesco Vettori to treat 
concerning the sum. They afterwards sent Machiavelli 
1507. with their ultimatum. Both ambassador and secretary 
JEtat. remained some time at Trent, waiting on the im- 
38> perial court. Machiavelli employed himself in making 
observations on the state of the country, which he re- 
duced to writing, in a brief " Account of Germany," on 
^ ' his return. He had before drawn up a similar account 
39. of the state of France. 

The favourite object of Florence continued to be the 
reduction of Pisa. They purchased permission to attack 
it, from the kings of France and Spain, for a large sum 
1509. of money. They besieged the town, dividing their 
JEtat. army into three divisions, which blockaded it on three 
40> sides. The camps were each commanded by commissaries; 
and Machiavelli was sent thither to advise with and assist 
them. He passed from one camp to the other, to watch 
over the execution of the measures concerted for the 
siege ; and, at one time, went to Piombino, to meet some 
deputies from Pisa, to arrange a treaty ; but it came to 
nothing, and he returned to the army. He was much 
trusted by his government; and one of the commissaries, 
in writing to the signoria, observes, " Niccolo Machia- 
velli left us to-day, to review the troops of the other 
camp. I have directed him to return here, as you 
order ; and I wish for nothing so much as to have him 
with me." 


After a blockade of three months, Pisa surrendered. 
The Florentine republic behaved with the greatest 
generosity and humanity, and kept terms faithfully with 
a people who had injured them deeply, and were now 
wholly at their mercy. 

Late in the same year, Machiavelli was employed to 
convey to Mantua the money composing a part of the 
subsidy of Florence to the emperor. After having dis- 
charged this office, he was ordered to repair to Verona, 
" or/' as his instruction's say, " wherever it seems best, 
to learn and communicate intelligence of the actual state 
of affairs. You will diligently write us word of every 
thing that happens worthy of notice, changing the place 
of your abode each day." That part of Italy was, at 
that time, the seat of a cruel and destructive war carried 
on between the emperor and the republic of Venice. 

There existed a great spirit of enmity between 
Louis XI I. and the pope. Julius II. was a violent and 
implacable man : his former suspicions against the 
French monarch were changed into excessive hatred. 
He was animated, also, by the desire of acquiring the 
glory of liberating Italy from the barbarians.* He sent 
troops against Genoa, which belonged to the king; 
Florence had been unable to refuse a safe passage for 
them through their territory : at the same time, fearing 
that this concession had offended Louis, they despatched 
Machiavelli to make their excuses. His letters, during June, 
this mission, disclose a curious system of bribery with 1510. 
regard to the ministers of the king. Cardinal d'Amboise ^ Etat - 
had always shown himself friendly towards the republic ; 
but this friendship had been purchased by gold. He 
died a month before the arrival of the secretary, who 
writes thus to the signoria: " I had a long convers- 
ation with Alessandro Nasi concerning the donations, 
that I might understand how I ought to regulate myself 
with regard to them. He promised the chancellor 
Robertet and the marshal Chaumont d'Amboise to pay 
what is due to them, during the ensuing month of 
August. He told me, that he did not think that the 

* GuicciardinL 


10,000 ducats, which were sent here for the cardinal 
d'Amboise, and which were not paid, on account of his 
death, could be saved for the city, except in one way ; 
which was, by distributing them between the chancellor 
and marshal, as a portion of what is due to them." 

He had an audience with the king at Blois. There 
was no Florentine ambassador at this time at the French 
court ; Machiavelli was merely an envoy, with his title 
of secretary: the king, therefore, treated him with little 
ceremony ; but he received him kindly, declaring his 
belief in the friendship of Florence, but desiring some 
further proof of it. " Secretary," he said, ef I am not 
at enmity with the pope, nor any one else ; but as new 
friendships and enmities arise each day, I wish your 
government to declare at once what they will do in my 
favour : and do you write word to them, that I offer all 
the forces of this kingdom, and to come in person, to 
save their state, if necessary."* 

It was a difficult part for Florence, between France 
their ancient ally, and the stern vindictive pope. Some 
time before, during their difficulties, the republic had 
in some degree changed their form of government, and 
elected a gonfaloniere or doge for life, instead of 
changing every year ; their choice had fallen on Pietro 
Soderini, a man of integrity, but feeble and timid. The 
king of France, pushed to the utmost by the pope, de- 
termined to call together a council, to dethrone him. 
Florence offered him the city of Pisa, for it to be held ; 
and then, terrified by the menaces of Julius II., sent 
1511. Machiavelli to Louis, to endeavour to recall this offer, 
^ tat - but in vain. The council met, and the secretary was 
sent to attend upon it; it came to nothing, however. 
Only four cardinals met, they were ill treated by the 
people, discountenanced by the Italian clergy, and dis- 
satisfied with themselves : after holding two sessions at 
Pisa, they transferred themselves to Milan. 

* One of Louis's expressions is curious : "If the pope will make any 
demonstration of friendship to me, though no bigger than the black of my 
nail, I will respond by a yard." The black of the nail of the king of 


The result of this open attack of Louis upon the power 
of the pope animated the latter to renewed endeavours 
to expel the king from Italy : he formed a league with 
Spain and Venice against the French power, and a dis- 
astrous war was the consequence. At one time the 
French obtained a victory at Ravenna, which was de- 
trimental to them, since Gaston de Foix and 10,000 of 
their bravest soldiers were left on the field of battle. 
Florence remained neuter during this struggle, but the 1512. 
republic was accused of a secret partiality for France, and ^ tat> 
its punishment was resolved upon at the diet of Mantua. 3 * 

The Medici family still hovered round Florence, 
desirous of reinstating themselves in their ancient seats, 
and of reassuming the power enjoyed by their fore- 
fathers. Piero de' Medici had fallen in the battle of the 
Gariglano, some years before ; he left a son named 
Lorenzo, and a daughter, Clarice. His brother the car- 
dinal Giovanni had, while he perceived his cause hope- 
less, quitted Italy, and visited many parts of France 
and Germany, nor returned to Rome till the elevation of 
Julius II. : from that time he took an important part 
in the public affairs of Italy, and was appointed legate 
during the war. His influence was exerted during the 
diet of Mantua, and the punishment of Florence was 
decreed to consist in the overthrow of the existing 
government, and the restoration of the Medici. The de- 
tails of the expedition of the allies against the republic are 
related by Machiavelli in a private letter, which, though 
highly interesting, is too long to extract.* The gonfa- 
loniere Soderini exerted some energy at the commence- 
ment of the struggle, but was unable to holtl out long. 
The army, under the command of the viceroy of Naples, 
entered Tuscany, and taking Prato by t assault, massacred 
its inhabitants without respect for age or sex. The Flo- 
rentines were alarmed by this cruelty, and resolved to 
submit, Soderini and his partisans quitted the city and 
repaired to Siena, and the Medici entered Florence. 
The cardinal was at their head, accompanied by his 

* Lettere Familiari, VIIL 
VOL. I. U 


younger brother Giuliano, his nephew Lorenzo, son of 
Piero, and his cousin Julius de' Medici, descended from 
the brother of Cosmo. 

Thus fell a government which Machiavelli had served 
faithfully for fourteen years. His labours had been great 
during this period, the honours he enjoyed of no conspi- 
cuous nature, and his emoluments were very slender. 
When on his various missions, he was allowed only a 
trifling addition to his salary as secretary, which fre- 
quently was not commensurate to his increased expen- 
diture, and afforded no room for luxury or display. 
" It is true," he writes to the signoria from Verona, 
" that I spend more than the ducat a day that you 
allow me for my expenses ; nevertheless, now, as here- 
tofore, I shall be satisfied with whatever you please to 
give." There was nothing mercenary in Machiavelli's 
disposition, and he seems perfectly content with con- 
tinuing in the office he enjoyed, without rising higher. 
He went on his legations always in the character of 
envoy, at such times when the republic thought it best 
to treat by means of a delegate less costly and of less au- 
thority than an ambassador. Thus his letters often ask 
to be replaced by a minister entrusted with more exten- 
sive powers. Evidently, throughout his active career, he 
had the good of his country only at heart. He \vas 
steady, faithful, and industrious : he recommended 
himself to the powers to whom he was sent by his in- 
telligence and his want of pretension. Up to the mo- 
ment of Soderini's exile, he acted for the Gonfaloniere 
and his council. His last office was to gather the militia 
together, for the purpose of checking the advance of the 
viceroy through the passages of the Apennines. He 
was too late, and his forces were too scanty; for Pietro 
Soderini, timid and temporising, did not give credit to 
the extent of danger that menaced him till the last mo- 
ment. His fear of appearing ambitious, and making 
himself obnoxious to his fellow citizens, prevented him 
from taking those resolute measures necessary for his 
safety : but Machiavelli continued faithful to him, till 


the moment he quitted the city. Then he turned his 
eyes to the new government and the Medici, who, 
though introduced under had auspices, showed no dis- 
position to' tyrannise over their fellow-citizens. He was 
poor, and had a large family ; and, though a lover of 
liberty, was not personally attached to the fallen Gonfalo- 
niere. The forms of government continued the same, and 
he was still secretary to the Council of Ten. He desired 
and expected to continue in office, and to exercise func- 
tions, which could not be otherwise than beneficial to his 

His hopes were deceived : he was considered by the 
Medici as too firm an adherent of the adverse party, 
He was deprived of his place, and sentenced not to quit 
for one year the territory of the republic, nor to enter 
the palace of government. But this was not the end, 
it was only the beginning, of his disasters. Shortly 
after, the enemies of the Medici conspired against them : 
the conspiracy was discovered, and two of the chief 
among them were beheaded. Machiavelli was sup- 
posed to be implicated in the plot : he was thrown into 
prison, and put to the torture. No confession could be 
extorted from him, and it is possible that he was entirely 
innocent of the alleged crime. He was soon after com- 
prised in the act of amnesty published by the new pope. 
On the death of Julius II., cardinal de' Medici was 
elevated to the pontifical throne ; he assumed the name 
of Leo X., and signalised his exaltation by this act of 
clemency. On his liberation Machiavelli wrote to his 
friend Francesco Vettori, the Florentine ambassador at 
the papal court, who had exerted himself in his favour, 
in these terms : " You have heard from Paolo Vettori 
that I am come out of prison, to the universal joy of 
this city. I will not relate the long story of my mis- 
fortunes ; and will only say, that fate has done her 
utmost to bring them about ; but, thank God, they are 
at an end. I hope to be safe for the future, partly be- 
cause I intend to be more cautious, and partly because 
the times are more liberal and less suspicious." 
u 2 


1513. Francesco Vettori, on hearing of his liberation, had 
JEtat. already written,, and their letters crossed on the road. 
44. ft Honoured friend," he wrote, f< I have suffered greater 
grief during these last eight months than I ever en- 
dured during the course of my whole life before : but 
the worst was when I knew that you were arrested, as 
I feared that, without cause or fault of yours, you would 
be put to the torture, as was really the case. I am 
sorry that I could not assist you, as you had a right to 
expect; but as soon as the pope was created, I asked him 
no favour except your liberation, which I am glad to 
find had already taken place. And now, dear friend, 
I have to entreat you to take heart during this perse- 
cution, as you have done on other occasions : and I 
hope, as things are now tranquil, and their (the Medici) 
good fortune transcends all imagination, that you will 
soon be permitted to quit Tuscany. If I remain here, 
I wish you would come to me, for as long a time as 
you like." 

" Rome, 15th of March, 1513. 

Machiavelli replies : 

" Your very kind letter has made me forget my past 
disasters ; and although I was convinced of the af- 
fection you bore me, yet your letter delighted me. I 
thank you heartily, and pray God that I may be able 
to show my gratitude to your advantage. You may 
derive this pleasure from my misfortunes, that I think 
well of myself for the courage with which I bore them, 
so that I feel myself of more value than I before gave 
myself credit for : and if my masters, the magnificent 
Giuliano and your Paolo, to whom I owe my life, will 
raise me from the earth, I think they will hereafter have 
cause to congratulate themselves. If they will not, I 
shall live as I have done before ; for I was born poor, 
and I learnt to suffer before I learnt to enjoy. If you 
remain at Rome, I will spend some time with you, as 
you advise. All our friends salute you. Every day we 
assemble at some lady's house, so to recover our strength. 


Yesterday we went to see the procession in the house of 
Sandra di Pero, and thus we pass our time during this 
universal rejoicing, enjoying the remnant of life, which 
appears to me like a dream. Valete. 
" Florence, 18th of March, 1513. 

From this time till the end of his life we possess a 
series of MachiavellFs private correspondence, of the 
most valuable kind. His chief friend was Vettori, who 
continued to reside as ambassador at Rome. Some of 
their letters are long political discussions, which Vettori 
drew Machiavelli in to write, that he might show 
them to pope Leo X., and excite him to admire and 
employ his talents. His endeavours were without suc- 
cess. Machiavelli continued for many years to live in 
obscurity, sometimes at Florence, sometimes at his 
country-house at San Casciano, a bathing town among 
the hills, south of Pisa. His letters from Florence 
contain the gossip of their acquaintance, amusing anec- 
dotes that paint the manners, while they give us no 
exalted idea of the morals, of the Italians of those days. 
Machiavelli himself had no poetry nor delicacy of imagin- 
ation : his feelings were impetuous, and his active mind 
required some passion or pursuit to fill it. He bitterly 
laments the inaction of his life, and expresses an ardent 
desire to be employed. Meanwhile, he created occupation 
for himself ; and it is one of the lessons that we may 
derive from becoming acquainted with the feelings and 
actions of celebrated men, to learn that this very period, 
during which Machiavelli repined at the neglect of 
his contemporaries, and the tranquillity of his life, was 
that during which his fame took root, and which brought 
his name down to us. He occupied his leisure in 
writing those works which have occasioned his immor- 
tality. No one would have searched the Florentine 
archives for his public correspondence, acute and in- 
structive as it is, nor would his private letters now lie 
before us, if he had not established a name through his 
other writings. He wrote them to bring himself into 
u 3 


present notice, and to show the Medici the worth of 
that man whom they dishonoured and neglected. 

One of his letters from the country to Vettori, is so 
interesting, and so necessary to the appreciation of his 
character, that we give it at length : 

ff Tarde non furon mai grazie divine. Divine 
favours never come too late. I say this, because it 
seemed to me that I had, not lost, but mislaid your 
kindness, you having remained so long without writing 
to me, that I wondered what might be the cause. 
Your last of the 23d dissipated my doubts, and I am 
delighted to find how quietly and regularly you fulfil 
your office. I advise you to go on thus ; for whoso- 
ever neglects his own affairs for those of others, injures 
himself and gets no thanks. As fortune chooses to dis- 
pose of our lives, let her alone. Do not exert yourself, 
but wait till she urges other men to do something, when 
it will be time for you to come forward, and for me to 
say, Here I am. I cannot thank you in any way except 
by giving you an account of my life here ; and you 
may see whether it is worth exchanging for yours. 

" I remain at my country house ; and since the last 
events I have not spent in all twenty days in Florence. 
[ have hitherto been killing thrushes. Rising before 
day-light I prepared my snares, and set off with a bundle 
of cages at my back, so that I resembled Geta, when he 
returns from the harbour with Amphytrion's books. I 
took two or at most seven thrushes each day.* Thus 
passed September, since when, to my great annoyance, 
this diversion has failed me ; and my life has been such 
as I will now detail. I rise with the sun, and go to a wood 
of mine, which I am cutting ; where I remain a couple of 
hours, reviewing the work of the past day, and talking 
with the woodcutters, who are always in trouble either for 
themselves or their neighbours. I have a thousand enter- 
taining things to tell you, which have happened with re- 

* Machiavelli's bird-catching need not excite surprise. It is the com. 
mon pastime of Italian nobles of the present day, to go out with an owl for 
a decoy, to shoot larks, thrushes, &c. 


gard to this wood*, between me and Frosino da Panzaro 
and others, who wanted to buy some of the wood. Frosino 
sent for several loads without saying a word to me ; 
and on payment wanted to keep back ten livres, which 
he says he ought to have had from me four years ago, 
having won it at play, at the house of Antonio Guic- 
ciardini. I began to play the devil, and to accuse the 
carrier of cheating, on which G. Machiavelli interfered, 
and brought us to agree. When the north wind blew, 
Battista Guicciardini, Filippo Ginori, Tommaso del 
Bene, and several other citizens took a load. I promised 
some to all, and sent one to Tommaso, half of which 
went to Florence, because he and his wife and children 
were there to receive it. So, seeing I gained nothing 
by it, I told the others that I had no more wood, 
which[made them all very angry, especially Battista, who 
numbers this among other state troubles. When I 
leave the wood I go to a fountain, where I wateh my 
bird nets with a book in hand ; either Dante or Petrarch, 
or one of the minor Latin poets Tibullus, Ovid, or 
one similar. I read the accounts of their loves ; I think 
of my own, and for a while enjoy these thoughts. Then 
I go to the inn on the road side ; I talk with the passers 
by ; ask the news of their villages ; I hear many things, 
and remark on the various tastes and fancies of men. 
Meanwhile the hour of dinner arrives, and I dine with 
my family on such food as my poor house and slight 
patrimony afford. When I have dined, I return to 
the inn ; where I usually find the host, a butcher, a 
miller, and two kiln men : with these I associate for the 
rest of the day, playing at cricca and tric-trac. We 
have a thousand squabbles ; angry words are used, often 

* Critics have given themselves the trouble to imagine and explain a 
mysterious meaning here, and to suppose that Machiavelji's wood is an 
allegory of the political labyrinth : but there is no foundation for this idea. 
Machiavelli never recurred to allegory to express his political opinions; 
and we have twenty letters of his to Vettori, discussing the intentions an d 
enterprises of the various European princes, without any attempt at mys- 
tery or covert allusion. At the same time we have also twenty letters full 
of anecdotes as insignificant as those of the wood. He was fond of minute 
details, and lively, though trifling, stories concerning himself and hU 

u 4 


about a farthing,'and we wrangle so loudly, that you might 
hear us at San Casciano. Immersed in this vulgarity, 
I exhaust my spirits, and give free course to my evil 
fortune ; letting her tread me thus under foot, with the 
hope that she will at last become ashamed of herself. 

" When evening comes I return home, and shut 
myself up in my study. Before I make my appearance 
in it, I take off my rustic garb, soiled with mud and dirt, 
and put on a dress adapted for courts or cities. Thus 
fitly habited I enter the antique resorts of the ancients ; 
where, being kindly received, I feed on that food which 
alone is mine, and for -which I was born. For an in- 
terval of four hours I feel no annoyance ; I forget every 
grief, I neither fear poverty nor death, but am totally 
immersed. As Dante says, f No one learns a science 
unless he remembers what he is taught ; ' so have I 
noted down that store of knowledge which I have col- 
lected from this conversation ; and have composed a 
little work on princely governments, in which I analyse 
the subject as deeply as I can, discussing what a prin- 
cipality is ; how many kinds there are ; in what way 
they are acquired ; how kept ; how lost : and if any 
devise of mine ever pleased you, this will not be dis- 
pleasing. It ought to be acceptable to princes, and 
chiefly to a new prince, wherefore I address it to 
Giuliano de' Medici. Filippo Casavecchia has seen it, 
and can describe the thing to you, and recount the dis- 
cussions we have had together about it. I am still adding 
to and polishing it. 

cc Your excellency desires that I should leave this 
place to go and enjoy myself with you. I will do so 
assuredly ; but am detained by some affairs, which will 
keep me here about seven weeks. The only thing that 
causes me to hesitate is, that the Soderini are in your 
town ; and I should be obliged to see and visit them ; 
and I should be afraid on my return that, instead of 
alighting at my own door, I should alight at the gates 
of the prison; because, although our person here (Giu- 
liano de' Medici) has secure foundation, and is fixed, yet 


he is new and suspicious ; and there are not wanting 
meddling fellows, like Paolo Bertini, who would draw 
upon others and leave me all the trouble. Preserve 
me from this fear, and I will certainly come to you. 

" I have talked with Philip concerning my little work, 
whether I shall dedicate it or not ; and if I do, whether 
I shall present it myself, or send it to you. If I do 
not dedicate it, I fear that Giuliano will not even read 
it, but that Ardinghelli will get the honour of it. Ne- 
cessity drives me to present it, for I pine away, and 
cannot remain long thus without becoming despicable 
through poverty. I wish these signori Medici would 
begin to make use of me, even if I commenced by rolling 
a stone, for if I did not afterwards gain their favour I 
should despise myself. And, therefore, if this book 
were read, they would see that, for the fifteen years 
during which 1 studied the arts of government, I neither 
slept nor played ; and every one ought to be glad to 
make use of one who has learned experience at the ex- 
pense of others. Nor need they doubt my fidelity ; for 
having proved myself trustworthy hitherto, I would 
not alter now : he who has been faithful for forty- three 
years, as I have, cannot change his nature ; and my 
poverty is a witness of my honour and disinterestedness. 

" I wish you would tell me what you think on these 
matters, and so farewell. Si felix. 

" 10th of December, 1513." 

The expressions in this letter appear sufficiently 
clear, that he wrote " The Prince," for the purpose of 
recommending himself to the Medici, and of being 
employed by them. His sons afterwards declared to 
our countryman, cardinal Pole, that he alleged his in- 
tention to be, to induce the Medici to render them- 
selves so hateful to Florence, by acting on the maxims 
he laid down, as to cause them to be exiled anew. 
There is no trace of this idea in his private corre- 
spondence. Giuliano de' Medici was an amiable prince, 


and he often praises him highly. It is true that his 
work is dedicated to Lorenzo de' Medici ; but this 
change was occasioned by the death of Giuliano. And 
even of Lorenzo, who was unpopular, Machiavelli 
writes thus to Vetlori : f ( I must give you some ac- 
count of the proceedings of the Magnifico Lorenzo, 
which have hitherto been such as to fill the city with 
hope ; so that every one begins to see his grandfather 
revived in him. He is diligent and affable, and causes 
himself to be loved and respected, rather than feared." 
Nor can it be believed that Machiavelli was so devoid of 
understanding, as to fancy that he could dupe men as 
intelligent as Leo X. and cardinal Julius, who were the 
heads of the family, by so barefaced an artifice. Be- 
sides that, the authority of the Medici was maintained 
by foreign arms, and the citizens were already very 
willing to get rid of them, as was proved a very few 
years after. Yet his real intentions form a question, 
perhaps, never to be decided. On one hand, the treatise 
is so broad and unplausible in its recommendations, that 
it is difficult to suppose him in earnest ; and, on the 
other, it is so dry, and has in so small a degree the air 
of irony, that it can scarcely be regarded as a satire. If 
it is, it is ill done, since men have not yet agreed 
whether it is one or not. 

Let us turn to the work itself, however, and present 
some analysis of a treatise which has been the subject 
of so much disquisition. Machiavelli, in the letter 
given above, professes to have written his book for the 
instruction of new princes, principi nuovi, sove- 
reigns lately raised to power. Italy was then divided 
into small states, governed by a variety of lords. Some- 
times one among them endeavoured, like Caesar Borgia, 
to conquer a number of these, and to unite them into 
one state. Machiavelli taught how a prince thus situ- 
ated might acquire and confirm his power. He adduces 
the example of the Duke of Valence, saying, " He does 
not know how to give better precepts to a new sovereign 


than those afforded by a view of Borgia's conduct." * 
He describes the course of his policy, applauds the per- 
fidy with which he destroyed the confederates of Magione, 
and holds up the death of Ramiro d' Oreo as a laudable 
proceeding. He allows, that perseverance in cruelty 
on the part of a prince becomes unendurable. " And, 
therefore/' he says, " a prince should determine to 
execute all his acts of blood at once, so that he may 
not be obliged each day to renew them ; but give 
security to his subjects, and gain them by benefits. 
Injuries ought to be done at once, because thus they 
are less felt, and offend less ; but benefits ought to be 
bestowed gradually, that they may produce a profounder 

The reader may judge whether this maxim is saga- 
cious, and seriously enjoined; or mischievous, and there- 
fore brought forward with sinister and sarcastic motives. 

The first fourteen chapters are taken up by consider- 
ing the various modes by which a prince acquires 
power either by force of arms, or the favour of the 
citizens ; being imposed on them by the aristocracy, or 
raised by the affection of the people. In the course of these 
considerations he remarks (chap, v.), that " he who be- 
comes master of a city habituated to freedom, and does 
not destroy it, must expect to be destroyed by it; because 
it will, in every rebellion, take refuge in the name of 
liberty and its ancient rights, the memory of which can 
never be extinguished by time or benefits." The fif- 
teenth chapter is headed, " Concerning those things 
for which men, and principally sovereigns are praised 
or blamed." He begins by saying, " It now remains 
to be seen what government and treatment a prince 
ought to observe with his subjects and friends. I know 
many people have written on this topic; and I ex- 
pect, therefore, to be accused of presumption, in differ- 

* When Leo X. formed a duchy, of which he made his nephew 
Lorenzo duke, Machiavelli, in a private letter to Vettori, discusses the 
government that he ought to adopt In this letter he again adduces, the 
example of Cajsar Borgia, saving, that were he a new prince, he would 
imitate all his proceedings. This of course only alludes to the civil go. 
vernment of Romagna, which was equitable and popular. 


ing from the opinions of others in my view of the 
subject. ^But, it being my intention to write what is 
useful to those who rule, it appears to me better to 
follow up the truth of things, than to bring forward 
imaginary ideas." He adds, " A man who, instead of 
acting for the best, acts as he ought, seeks rather his 
ruin than his preservation. For he who resolves on all 
occasions to adhere to what is virtuous, must be de- 
stroyed by the many who are not virtuous. Hence it 
is necessary that a prince, who would maintain his 
power, should learn not to be virtuous, but to adapt the 
morality of his actions to the dictates of necessity." He 
then enumerates the good and bad qualities for which 
sovereigns are distinguished, and adds : "I know 
that every one will confess that it would be laudable 
for a prince to possess all the above-mentioned qualities, 
which are considered virtuous ; but human nature does 
not allow of this. It is necessary, however, thathe should 
be prudent, and avoid the infamy of those vices which 
would deprive him of power ; and it would be well if 
he avoided the others also, if it were possible ; but if it 
be not possible, he may yield to them with less danger. 
And also he must not hesitate to incur the reputation 
of those vices, through which his government may 
be preserved ; for, on deep consideration, it will be 
found that there is a line of conduct which appears 
right, but which leads to ruin : and there is another 
which appears vicious, but from which security and 
prosperity flow." 

And this is what is called Machiavelian policy. 

He goes on to show, that generosity, which is sup- 
ported by extortion, must injure a prince more than 
parsimony, which makes no demands on the subject; 
he therefore advises a prince to gain a character for 
liberality, rather by being prodigal of the wealth of 
others than his own. " For," he says, " nothing con- 
sumes itself so much as liberality ; for while you use it, 
you lose your power of so doing, and you become poor 
and despicable ; or, to escape from poverty, grow rapa- 


cious and odious. A prince ought carefully to guard 
against becoming odious and contemptible : and liber- 
ality is one of the good qualities most likely to lead to 
this result, and therefore to be avoided." 

He then treats of " Cruelty and clemency, and whether 
it is better to be feared or loved." He says; ]" Every 
sovereign ought to desire to be esteemed merciful, and 
not cruel. Nevertheless, he ought to take care to what 
use he puts his mercy. C*sar Borgia was considered cruel; 
nevertheless his cruelty subdued Romagna, and united 
it, and reduced it to peace and obedience. A prince, 
therefore, ought not to fear the reputation of cruelty, 
if by it he preserves his subjects tranquil and faithful. 
A few examples will be more merciful than tolerating 
disorders, through a compassion, which gives rise to 
assassinations and disturbances ; for these injure the 
community, while the execution of offenders is injurious 
to individuals only." He then enters on a discussion 
of whether it is better for a prince to be loved or feared. 
He decides for the latter ; for, he says, C( Love is a 
duty, which, as men are wicked, is continually trans- 
gressed ; but fear arises from the dread of punishment, 
which is never lost sight of." Nothing can be more false 
than this. Men like to be benefited even more than 
they dislike being injured ; and love is a more universal 
passion than terror. He continues, " Still a prince, while 
he seeks to be feared, must avoid being hated for fear 
is very distinct from hatred. And he ought always to 
avoid seizing on the goods of his subjects. He may, as 
far as is justified by the cause given, proceed against 
the life of an individual ; but let him not touch the 
possessions. For men more easily forget the death of 
a father than the loss of patrimony." After stating 
this diabolical and false maxim in all its native deformity, 
he proceeds to consider the propriety of a sovereign's 
preserving his good faith : remarking, that though good 
faith and integrity are praiseworthy in a prince, expe- 
rience in his own time shows those statesmen to have 
achieved the greatest things, who held truth in small 


esteem : " For there are two ways of acting, one by 
law and the other by force ; the one for men, the other 
for animals ; but when the first does not succeed, it is 
necessary to have recourse to the second ; and a sove- 
reign ought to know how to put the animal man to 
good use. A prudent prince cannot and ought not to 
observe faith, when such observance would injure 
him, or the occasions for which he pledged himself are 
at an end. A sovereign, therefore, need not possess 
all the virtues I have mentioned ; but it is necessary 
that he should appear so to do. A prince cannot al- 
ways practise the qualities which are esteemed good, 
being often obliged to maintain his power by acting 
against the dictates of humanity and religion. He must 
act conscientiously when he can ; but when obliged, he 
ought to be capable of doing ill. A prince ought to take 
great care not to say a word that is not animated by good 
feeling, and he ought to appear full of pity, integrity, 
humanity, and religion ; and there is nothing so neces- 
sary as that he should appear to attend to the last. 
Every one sees what you seem ; few know what you are." 
Very false, notwithstanding its plausibility : children 
even have an instinct for detecting false appearances. 

He tells princes to cherish the affections of the people; 
as, he says, if loved by his subjects, he need fear no 
conspiracy ; but, hated by them, he has every thing to 
dread. He avers, also, that it is easier for a newly 
raised prince to make friends of those who opposed him, 
than to preserve the good will of his own partisans. He 
goes on to give much advice concerning the choice of 
ministers and courtiers, and concerning the influence of 
fortune over states ; and shows how concord and con- 
stancy are the only modes by which a government can 
preserve itself during the variations of fortune; and 
that, above all, it is necessary not to submit timidly, but 
to command her by audacity and resolution. 

He concludes by an exhortation to the Italians to 
drive the barbarians, French, Spaniards, and Germans, 
from their country. " It appears to me," he says, 


ff considering all things, that there is an admirable 
opening for a new prince to introduce another state of 
things into Italy. Does not the whole land pray God 
to send her some one to free her from the barbarians ? 
And is she not ready to follow any banner, if some one 
prince would display it ? Nor do we see any house from 
which she can hope so much as yours (that of Lorenzo 
de Medici) favoured as it is by God and the church ; 
being at the head of which, it may lead us to this re- 
demption. The justice of your cause is great, and the war 
will be just, and necessary, and pious. God, also, has 
opened the way for you. The Italians, however, must 
accustom themselves to the exercise of arms; if they 
would defend their country from foreign invaders. The 
infantry of other kingdoms have their defects : the 
Spaniards cannot stand the impetus of cavalry ; the 
Swiss would fear any infantry which should show itself 
as strong as themselves. Let the Italians, therefore, 
form an army of foot that shall possess none of these 
defects, and which shall be able to resist the shock of 
both horse and foot ; and this must be done by a novel 
style of command, by introducing which, a new ruler 
will acquire reputation and power. You ought not, 
therefore, to lose this opportunity of appearing as the 
deliverer of Italy. I cannot express with what affection 
such a one would be received in those provinces which 
have suffered from the inundation of foreign troops; 
with what thirst of vengeance, what resolute fidelity ; 
with what piety, and what grateful tears he would be 
followed. What gates would be shut against him? 
what people would refuse to render him obedience ? 
what Italian would hesitate to submit to his rule ? 
Every one abhors the authority of the barbarians. Let, 
therefore, your illustrious house assume this enterprise, 
animated by that hope which a just cause inspires, so 
that your country may rise triumphant under your 

There is nothing that is not patriotic and praise- 
worthy in these exhortations ; and they were such, more- 


over, as were likely to gain the hearts of the Italians. 
If, therefore, he is previously sarcastic, he is serious 
here ; and the mixture renders still more enigmatic the 
question of the aim he had in view in this work. 

Besides ff The Prince," Machiavelli wrote, at this 
time, his " Essays on the first Decade of Livy." These 
are considered by their author as his best work ; an 
opinion confirmed by the learned Italians of the present 
day. They breathe a purely republican spirit, and have 
for their scope to demonstrate how the greatness of 
Rome resulted from the equal laws of the common- 
wealth, and the martial character of its citizens. He 
dedicated them to his friends Zanobi Buondelmonte, 
and Cosimo Rucellai, who were the patrons of the aca- 
demy of the Rucellai gardens, a society set on foot by 
the father of Cosimo, for the support of the Platonic 
philosophy, and whose youthful followers were all de- 
voted to liberty. 

" The Art of War" was also written at this time, as 
well as his two comedies, his " Belfegor," and fe Life of 
Castruccio Castracani." The " Belfegor" has laid him 
open to the supposition that he was not happy in his 
married life : but there is no foundation for this notion. 
He was, early in life, married to Marietta Corsini, and 
had five children. He always mentions his wife with 
affection and respect in his letters, and gives tokens, in 
his will, of the perfect confidence he reposed in her. 
"Belfegor" has always been a popular tale: it is 
written with great spirit, and possesses the merit of 
novelty and wit. His comedies are thought highly of 
by the Italians. The " Mandragola," licentious as it 
is, was a great favourite. Leo X. caused the actors and 
scenic decorations to be brought from Florence to Rome, 
that he might see it represented ; and Guicciardini in- 
vited the author to come to get it up at Modena, and 
tells him to bring with him a favourite singer and act- 
ress, named La Barbara, to give it more effect : so early 
in Italian history do we find mention of prime donne, 
and of the court paid to them. 


But all this diligent authorship did not satisfy the 
active mind of Machiavelli : he tried to school himself 
to content, and says, in one of his letters to Vettori, " 1 
am arrived at not desiring any thing again with passion." 
But this was a deceit which he practised on himself. " If 
I saw you," he writes again to his friend, " I should fill 
your head with castles in the air ; because fortune has so 
arranged, that, not being able to discourse concerning the 
silk trade, nor the woollen trade, nor of gains nor losses, 
I must talk of the art of government." " While I 
read and re-read your disquisitions on politics, I for- 
get my adversity, and appear to have entered again on 
those public affairs, in prosecuting which I vainly en- 
dured so much fatigue, and spent so much time." 

The endeavours of Vettori,whowas attached to the Me- 
dici, to gain favour for his friend with Leo X., were long 
ineffectual; and Machiavelli showed symptoms of despair. 
" It seems," he writes, " that I am to continue in my 1514. 
hole, without finding a man who will remember my ^Etat. 
services, or believe that I can be good for any thing. It 45< 
is impossible that I can remain long thus. I pine away ; 
and see that, if God will not be more favourable to me, 
I shall be obliged to leave my home, and become secre- 
tary to some petty officer, if I can do nothing else ; or 
exile myself into some desert to teach children to read. 
I shall feign that I am dead ; and my family will get on 
much better without me ; as I am the cause of expense 
being accustomed to spend, and unable to do otherwise. 
I do not write this to induce you to take trouble for my 
sake ; but to ease my mind, so as not to recur again to 
so odious a subject." 

Yet all his letters are not complaining. The spirit 
of (< Belfegor " and " La Mandragola " animates many of 
them. "We are now grave," he writes, " and now fri- 
volous ; but we ought not to be blamed for this variety, 
as in it we imitate nature, which is full of change." 

The first use to which the Medici put him, was when 1519. 
Leo X. had placed the cardinal Julius over Florence, &***. 
and wished to remodel the government. He addressed 5a 

VOL. i. x 


himself to Machiavelli for his advice ; and the latter 
wrote, in reply, his e< Essay on the Reform of the Go- 
vernment of Florence, Written at the request of Leo X." 
Soon after Leo died, and the cardinal Julius expected to 
have been elected pope. He was disappointed, and re- 
turned to Florence to confirm his authority. The death 
of Leo awakened the hopes of the opposite party ; and 
a conspiracy was at this juncture entered into by the 
nephew of the gonfaloniere Soderini and the young phi- 
losophers of the Rucellai, to expel the Medici. It was 
discovered ; two ringleaders were put to death,,and the 
rest fled. 

Sis-mondi hastily assumes the fact, that Machiavelli 
was implicated in this plot ; but, on the contrary, there 
seems every proof that he took no part in it whatever ; 
and at this very time he was again employed by the 
1521. reigning powers. The Minor Friars were assembled in 
^Etat. chapter at Carpi, in the duchy of Modena. The go- 
5-' vernment of Florence wished to obtain from them, that 
their republic should be formed by their order, into a 
distinct province, separated from the rest of Tuscany. 
At the instance of cardinal Julius, Machiavelli was 
charged with this negotiation. A few days after his 
arrival at Carpi, the council of the company of the 
woollen trade commissioned him to procure a good 
preacher for the metropolitan church at Florence, during 
the ensuing Lent. His letters to his employers, on these 
occasions, are as serious and methodical as during any 
other legation; but in his heart he disdained the petty 
occupation. His friend Francesco Guicciardini, the cele- 
brated historian, was then governor of Modena ; and 
several amusing letters passed between them while Machi- 
avelli was at Carpi. Guicoiardini writes: "When I read 
your titles of ambassador to republics and friars, and 
consider the number of kings and princes with whom 
you have formerly negotiated, I am reminded of Ly- 
sander, who, after so many victories, had the office of 
distributing provisions to the army he had formerly corn- 
mantled ; and I say that, though the aspects of men, 


and the exterior appearances of things, are changed, the 
same circumstances perpetually return, and we witness 
no event that did not take place in times gone by." 

Machiavelli replies with greater gaiety : "I can 
tell you that, on the arrival of your messenger, with 
a bow to the ground, and a declaration that he was 
sent express and in haste, every one arose with so many 
bows and so much clamour, that all things seemed 
turned topsy-turvy. Many persons asked me the news ; 
and I, to increase my importance, said that the emperor 
was expected at Trent, that the Swiss were assembling a 
new diet, and that the king of France was going to have 
an interview with the king of England ; so that all stood 
open-mouthed and cap in hand to hear me. I am sur- 
rounded by a circle now, while writing, who, seeing me 
occupied upon so long a letter, wonder and regard me as 
one possessed ; and I, to excite their surprise, pause now 
and then, and look very wise ; and they are deceived. If 
they knew what I was writing, their wonder would in 
crease. Pray send one of your men again ; and let him 
hurry, and arrive in a heat, so that these people may 
be more and more astonished ; for thus you will do me 
honour, and the exercise will be good for the horse at 
this season of the year. I would now write you a longer 
letter, if I were willing to tire out my imagination; but 
I wish to preserve it fresh for to-morrow. Remember 
me, and farewell. 

" Your servant, 

ft Ambassador to the Minor Friars. 

" Carpi, 17th of May, 1521." 

This letter, as well as well as one of Guicciardini's on 
this occasion, has been mutilated by a person, whose 
scrupulous good taste was offended by the tone of some 
of the pleasantries. That was not the age of decorum 
either in speech or action. 

The cardinal Julius had commissioned Machiavelli 1524. 
to write the history of Florence, and he proceeded in it 
x 2 


as far as the death of Lorenzo de' Medici. He writes 
to Guicciardini, on the 30th of August, 1524, " I am 
staying in the country, occupied in writing my history ; 
and I would give fivepence I will not say more to have 
you here, that I might show you where I am, as in certain 
particulars I wish to know whether you would be of- 
fended most by my elevated or humble manner of treat- 
ing them. I try, nevertheless, to write so as, by telling 
the truth, to displease no one." 

1526. Cardinal Julius had now become pope, under the 
^tat- title of Clement VII. He paid Machiavelli a regular but 
51 ' very limited salary as historiographer. Having brought 
it down to the time of the death of Lorenzo de' Medici, 
he made a volume of it, and dedicated it to the pope. 
On this occasion he writes to Guicciardini, " I have re- 
ceived a gratification of 100 ducats for my history. I 
am beginning again ; and relieve myself by blaming the 
princes who have done every thing they can to bring 
us to this pass." He signs himself to this letter, Niccolo 
Machiavelli, historian, comic and tragic author, isto- 
rico, comico, et tragico. 

The condition of Italy was at this period most de 
plorable. The French had been driven from Italy after 
the battle of Pavia ; but no sooner was that power hum- 
bled, than the various states began to regard with alarm 
the ascendency of the emperor Charles V. A confede- 
racy was formed by the chief among them, for the pur- 
pose of holding this powerful monarch in check ; and 
he sent the constable Bourbon to Milan to preserve that 
duchy. Thus there were two armies in the heart of 
the peninsula, both unpaid, both lawless, and destructive 
to friends as well as to enemies. The emperor sent no 
supplies to Bourbon ; and the pope, who was at the head 
of the Italian league, showed himself so timid and vac- 
cillating, and, above all, so penurious, as to bring down 
ruin on his cause. 

Bourbon was unable to keep his troops together, ex- 
cept by promises of plunder ; and he led them south- 
ward by slow advances, with the intention of enriching 


them by the sack of Florence or Rome. The danger was 
nearest to the former city; and Clement VII. considered 
it requisite to put it in a state of defence. Machiavelli 
was employed to inspect the progress of the fortifications. 
He executed his task diligently, and, as was his wont, 
put his whole heart and soul into his occupation. " My 
head is so full of bulwarks," he says, " that nothing 
else will enter it." 

The imperial army continued to advance ; and the 
Florentine government, in great alarm, sent Machiavelli 
to Guicciardini, governor of Modena, and lieutenant-ge- 
neral of the papal forces, to take measures with regard 
to the best method of securing the republic ; and it was 
agreed that, if the imperialists advanced, the forces of 
the church should be sent in aid of Florence. The 
winter season and other circumstances delayed the 
operations of the imperialists, but early in the following 
spring the danger grew imminent. Bourbon had arrived 1527. 
with his army to the vicinity of Bologna ; and there -^Etot. 
was every likelihood that his army would traverse Tus- 58 * 
cany, and attack Florence itself. Machiavelli again went 
to Parma, to advise with Guicciardini, to watch over 
the movements of the hostile army, and to send fre- 
quent intelligence to Florence of their proceedings. 
The republic wished that the troops of the Italian league 
should assemble at Bologna, and be on the spot to guard 
the frontiers of Tuscany. 

The imperialists continued to advance: the pope, 
alarmed by their progress, entered into a treaty for 
peace with the emperor ; but it was uncertain whether 
the army under Bourbon would agree to it. Machi- 
avelli continued for some weeks at Parma, and then 
accompanied Guicciardini to Bologna, watching their 
movements. It was doubtful what road they would 
take on proceeding to Rome ; but the chances still 
were, that they would pass through Tuscany. The 
army now removed to Castel San Giovanni, ten miles 
from Bologna, where they remained some days, detained 
by the bad weather, and overflowing of the low lands, 


caused by the melting of the snow, which had fallen 
heavily around Bologna : they were in danger, while thus 
forced to delay, of being reduced to great straits for want 
of provisions. " If this weather lasts two days longer," 
Machiavelli wrote to his government, " the duke of Fer- 
rara may, sleeping and sitting, put an end to the war." 

A truce was concluded between Clement VII. and 
the ministers of Charles V. ; but it was not acceded 
to by Bourbon and his army. The pope, however, 
unaware of this circumstance, dismissed his troops, and 
remained wholly unguarded. The imperialists, ren- 
dered unanimous through the effects of hunger and 
poverty, continued to advance. They entered Tuscany ; 
but, without staying to attack Florence, they hurried on 
by forced marches and falling unexpectedly on Rome, 
took it by assault ; and that dreadful sack took place, 
which filled the city with death and misery, and spread 
alarm throughout Italy. Machiavelli followed the Italian 
army, as it advanced to deliver the pope, who was be- 
sieged in the Castel Sant' Angelo. From the environs of 
Rome he repaired to Civita Vecchia, where Andrea Doria 
commanded a fleet ; and from him he obtained the means 
of repairing by sea to Leghorn. Before embarking, he 
received intelligence of the revolution of Florence. On 
hearing of the taking of Rome, on the 6th of May, the 
republicans* rose against the Medici; and they were 
forced to quit the city. The government was changed 
on the 16th of May, and things were restored to the 
state they were in 1512. 

Machiavelli returned to Florence full of hope. He 
considered that the power was now in the hands of his 
friends, and that he should again enter on public life 
under prosperous auspices. His hopes were disappointed 
public feeling was against him : his previous services, 
his imprisonment and torture, were forgotten ; while it 
was remembered that, since 15 13, he had been continually 
aiming at getting employed by the Medici, against 
whom the popular feeling was violently excited. He had 
succeeded at last ; and was actually in their service, 


when they were driven from the city. These circum- 
stances rendered him displeasing to men who considered 
themselves the deliverers of their country. Machiavelli 
was disappointed hy their neglect, and deeply wounded 
by their distrust. He fell ill ; and taking some pills, to 
which he was in the habit of having recourse when 
indisposed, he grew worse, and died two days after on 
the 22d of June, 152? in the 59th year of his age. 

Paul Jovius, his old enemy, insinuates that he took 
the medicine for the sake of destroying himself, a 
most clumsy sort of suicide, but there is no founda- 
tion whatever for this report.* His wife Marietta, the 
daughter of Ludovico Corsini, survived him ; and he 
left five children, four sons and one daughter. He had 
made a will in 1511, when secretary of the republic; 
and in 1522 he made another, which only differs in 
details the spirit is the same. He leaves his " beloved 
wife" an addition to her dower, and divides the rest 
of his slight fortune between his children. Marietta 
is left guardian and trustee of the younger children to 
continue till they were nineteen with a clause for- 
bidding them to demand any account of money spent ; 
and mentions that he reposes entire confidence in her. 

Machiavelli was of middle stature, rather thin, 
and of olive complexion. He was gay in conversation, 
obliging with his friends, and fond of the arts. He had 
readiness of wit; and it is related of him, that, being re- 
proved for the maxims of his " Prince," he replied " If 
I taught princes how to tyrannise, I also taught the 
people how to destroy them." He probably developes in 
these words, the secret of his writings. He was willing 

* He had before recommended these pills to Guicciardini, saying that he 
himself never took more than two at a time. They are chiefly composed 
of aloes. There is a letter from his son Pietro to Francesco Nelli, pro- 
fessor at Pisa, which relates concisely the manner of his death : 

" Dearest Francesco, I cannot refrain from tears on being obliged to 
inform you of thedeath of our father Niccolb, which took place on the 22d of 
this month, of colic, produced by a medicine which he took on the 0th. 
He allowed himself to be confessed byJrate Matteo, who remained with 
him till his death. Our father has left us in the greatest poverty, as you 
know. When you return here, I will tell you many things by word of mouth. 
I am in haste, and will say no more than farewell. 

" Your relation, 



to teach both parties, but his heart was with the repub- 
licans. He was buried at the church of Santa Croce at 
Florence ; and soon after his death a violent sensation 
was created against his works principally through an 
attack on the f( Prince/' by our own countryman, car- 
dinal Pole. They were interdicted by successive popes, 
and considered to contain principles subversive of re- 
ligion and humanity. 

It was not till the lapse of more than two centuries 
that a re-action of feeling took place and the theory 
was brought forward, that he wrote for the sake of in. 
ducing the Medici to render themselves odious to their 
countrymen, so as to bring ruin and exile again on 
their house. In 1782, the Florentines were induced by 
the representations of an English nobleman, lord 
Cowper, to pay honour to their countryman, and set on 
foot a complete edition of his works ; which Leopold, 
grand duke of Tuscany, permitted to be printed ; and 
which was preceded by an eulogium written by Baldelli. 
In 1787, a monument was erected over his remains, 
on which was carved the following inscription : 

Tanto Nomini nullum par Elogium 

Obiit Anno A. P. V. MDXXVII. 

There remains no descendant of Machiavelli. His 
grandson, by his only daughter, Giuliano Ricci, left 
several writings relative to his illustrious ancestor, which 
are preserved in the archives of the Ricci family. The 
branch of the Machiavelli, descending from the secretary, 
terminated in Ippolita Machiavelli, married to Francesco 
de' Ricci in 1608. The other branch terminated in Fran- 
cesco Maria, Marchese di Quinto in the Vicentino, who 
died in Florence, 1726. 



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